Define what a "down year" is because Demaryius Thomas' 2015 campaign was one that most NFL wide receivers would envy. 105 receptions, 1,304 yards and six touchdowns isn't a body of work to sneeze at.
And yet, it did feel like there was something missing from Thomas' game last year. On the outside looking in, it felt like something just wasn't right at times mentally. Call it a focus issue, maybe, but there were times that it seemed he just wasn't fully present mentally.
Compared to his previous three seasons with quarterback Peyton Manning, Thomas' 2015 season wasn't as prolific. He did receive the second-highest amount of targets in his career (174), but it translated to a slightly smaller target-to-reception percentage.
Thomas' yards per catch (YPC) dipped 15 percent to just 12.4 in 2015—down from 14.6 YPC in 2014. And the touchdowns weren't coming as frequently as they usually did, as Thomas totaled five less than the previous season. It was the first time since 2011 he failed to reach double-digit touchdowns.
However, Thomas also endured the worst quarterback play in Denver since 2011, so it comes as no surprise. Holding out of Denver's offseason program and his mother's release from prison certainly played a role. Ultimately, Thomas' "down year" was symptomatic of several factors, as he recently pointed out during an interview with Alex Marvez and Kirk Morrison of Sirius XM NFL Radio.
“I think the main thing was sometimes thinking too much,” Thomas said. “As I got my deal done, my mom got out. I was happy to be back with my team, but it was going out on the field, getting the timing down with the new offense. I wasn’t there for OTAs, I wasn’t there for minicamp. And then you had new routes. It was different for the quarterbacks because it was something Peyton [Manning] had never done before, Brock [Osweiler] had never done, either.”
Mental issues. Lack of focus. Thinking too much. That much was clear when watching him perform last year. Plus, there's something to be said for missing OTAs and the installation of Gary Kubiak's offense.
Now, at least, he's in year-two of Kubiak's system, but this time around, he's having to build chemistry with new quarterbacks. Needless to say, naming a starting QB as early as possible in training camp would behoove the Broncos.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1678989-sources-broncos-offer-san... My biggest complaint with Thomas' 2015 body of work was that he seemed to disappear, at times, in the big moments. There were exceptions, like in Week 12 vs. New England.
But it seemed when the stakes were raised, or he was faced with stiffer competition across the line of scrimmage, he didn't always rise to the occasion. See the Super Bowl for exhibit A, which was the antithesis of his record-setting Super Bowl XLVIII performance.
Heading into life without Peyton, it feels like the Broncos are in uncharted waters, but that's not really true. Remember the complexion of the Broncos offense under quarterbacks John Elway and Jake Plummer? Lead with the run, and gash the opposition with the play-action.
Expect to see that offensive identity reincarnated in 2016. There will still be plenty of targets to go around to feed Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders—and whichever tight end winds up playing with the first team.
Listen to the full Demaryius Thomas interview below.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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