The Denver Broncos offense is back. Against the Indianapolis Colts, they put up 31 points and notched 361 yards of offense. Peyton Manning led the Broncos effectively, despite missing star slot receiver Wes Welker to suspension. Although Demaryius Thomas had an uncharacteristically pitiful effort in his outing, new wideout Emmanuel Sanders made the most of his 72 snaps of 77 (most among all pass-catchers), notching 6 receptions for 77 yards and an 11-yard sweep run.
With Welker down, the Broncos effectively turned to Sanders and Demaryius (69 snaps) as their primary receivers, with Julius Thomas as their TE (70 snaps). TE Virgil Green and WR Andre Caldwell effectively split the rest of the offense between them, with 43 and 42 snaps, respectively. TE Jacob Tamme had mop-up duty with just 11 snaps.
When the Broncos wanted to beef up their line and run some power run plays, they brought in Green and operated 12 (one RB, two TE) personnel. When they wanted to spread the field and throw it, Caldwell came in in their 11 (one RB, one TE) personnel.
The most glaring absence from the snap counts for the WR corps? Standout rookie WR Cody Latimer, who saw a grand total of 0 offensive snaps. When offensive playmakers like Demaryius (4 catches from 11 targets) and Caldwell (2 catches from 5 targets) had a disappointing night, Latimer still did not see the field on offense.
In the preseason, Andre Caldwell caught 4 passes for 60 yards. Latimer? 5 for 116. By most reports, Latimer may have played his way into the #4 receiver position between training camp and the preseason action. Yet, it was Caldwell who saw the field for the Broncos, earning more than half of the plays.
Latimer has game-changing abilities, and there is no doubt of that. Yet, at this point, the Broncos likely feel more confident in Andre Caldwell as the #3 receiver and his experience in this offense, going into his third year with the Broncos. Latimer has sky-high potential, but let's not forget that he is just a rookie. As he matures this season, expect him to see more snaps and eventually targets from Peyton Manning.
Welker may return before his suspension was scheduled to be lifted. And that extra depth gives Latimer extra time to get the offense down as the season progresses. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Broncos bring in a "big WR" package eventually, with Cody Latimer (6'3") and Andre Caldwell (6'0") outside and Demaryius Thomas (6'3") in the slot.
Luc Polglaze is the Editor-in-Chief for MileHighHuddle.com. Find him on Twitter @mhsradio.