ENGLEWOOD – Rookie receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are the Denver Broncos’ new safety valves, applying the pressure but also relieving the burden on veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders .
“Those two guys, they came in like pros, they’re taking care of their business, they’re on time to everything, they’re making plays,” Thomas said Friday. “So, they’re pushing us. And that’s good for us. We need it. We want to push each other and make each other better.”
While Sutton has made a splash at training camp so far with daily highlight-reel catches and Hamilton has drawn his share of applause, Thomas and Sanders are quietly having very good camps themselves.
Thomas’ stats have steadily declined every season since his peak in 2014, and his streak of five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons ended last year when he finished 51 yards shy.
Sanders dealt with injuries and his two TD catches were his fewest since 2012.
Part of the problem in 2017 was that the Broncos had nobody around them – a third receiver, a tight end, a running back – who could really force teams to quit bracketing Thomas and Sanders.
That’s no longer the case .
In addition to Sutton and Hamilton, the Broncos added rookie running backs Royce Freeman, David Williams and Philip Lindsay (undrafted) along with another Big Ten tight end in Troy Fumagalli to go with Jake Butt, who missed his rookie season last year while recovering from knee surgery.
Sutton, Hamilton and Fumagalli are members of general manager John Elway’s already-celebrated draft class of 2018 that featured experience – all 10 players spent four years in school – and leadership – most were captains in college.
Safety Justin Simmons said he’s just like all the fans whooping and hollering at practice – he’s energized by and excited about the Broncos’ rookies.
“Oh, for sure. Especially Chubb,” Simmons said of first-round pick Bradley Chubb, whose ability to chase down quarterbacks “makes my job 50 times easier.”
Sutton’s making his job harder.
“Oh yeah, Sutton’s been great. He’s been out here making plays,” Simmons said. “He’s just another guy that’s just humble and hungry, coming in here ready to work.”
That’s been the theme of this year’s draft class, which also includes cornerback Isaac Yiadom, inside linebackers Keishan Bierria, Josey Jewell (who practiced Friday for the first time after pulling a hamstring in June) and guard Sam Jones.
Last season, several veterans took the 2017 draft class, which was filled with raw athleticism and projects, to task for their work ethic, complaining that too many of them came off as entitled.
This year’s class drew quick praise from the veterans.
“There’s no complaining,” defensive end Derek Wolfe said. “That’s the one thing that you notice from an immature draft class, is that they complain a lot, whine and cry a lot. There’s none of that coming from this group.”
“It’s a mature class,” coach Vance Joseph said. “It’s been seven or eight guys that have shown they can help us win.”
Sutton’s doing it with spectacular plays every day, and Hamilton’s sprinkling in his share, too.
“I’ll tell you what, we’ve got some good rookies,” Sanders said. “I was just over there with my family and Courtland just runs over to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to take your helmet.’ And that’s what we need.”
Players willing to pay their dues but eager to make their mark.
Also turning heads is Chubb, the fifth overall pick in the draft who reminds defensive tackle Domata Peko Sr. of superstar Von Miller .
“He’s quick, he’s strong and he can get to the passer. He’s disruptive and he’s willing to learn,” Peko said after getting his first glimpse of the 2018 class. “He’s always talking to Von and asking, ‘Hey, what can I do?’ That’s good to see out of a rookie.”
Peko also singled out Sutton and Jewell as players he’s thrilled to play alongside.
“These guys are going to make a difference for us,” Peko said. “They’re only going to help our team. I love our new guys.”