Can They Replace Marshall?

Kyle Orton all but announced recently what already was widely assumed: Denver will spread it out among the wide receivers in the post-Brandon Marshall era. In fact, the Broncos truly could have a different No. 1 target each week.

Kyle Orton all but announced recently what already was widely assumed: Denver will spread it out among the wide receivers in the post-Brandon Marshall era.

In fact, the Broncos truly could have a different No. 1 target each week.

Orton's better command of the offense can potentially take greater advantage of what the defense allows rather than force-feeding the ball to one playmaker.

Still, it remains to be seen whether this same group can successfully win the types of one-on-one matchups Marshall did in confined areas and in critical situations.

"Hopefully this offense is one where we've got five or six guys catching four or five balls and everybody is getting involved," Orton said.

To that end, Denver has stocked the receiver spots with players whose strengths may not be top-10 caliber at the position league-wide. The thought process is each complements one another's skills.

"We've got big. We've got small. We've got quick. We've got fast. We've got all of the above," coach Josh McDaniels maintained. "And they're versatile too because they're not just playing one position. So we feel great about that."

No one outwardly is saying Marshall demanded the ball often in order to keep him playing at his highest level but it's been hinted at plenty this offseason.

It may to some degree be what Orton was alluding to when he talked about having receivers now who "don't mind taking one for the team to let one of their guys get open behind them."

At the same time, it's difficult to deny Denver won't miss Marshall's tackle-breaking ability and strength to play through defensive backs in order to put points on the board.

Eddie Royal is coming off a down year, though he's had a good camp and his skills should translate to a large slot role. Jabar Gaffney has scored two TDs or less in eight of nine NFL seasons but had a huge season-finale in 2009 without Marshall and has been Orton's go-to receiver this summer. Brandon Lloyd has built a reputation on some spectacular grabs but never has been known for his consistency down to down. Brandon Stokley is a solid third-down weapon but not counted upon for much more at this stage of his career.

Three talented young receivers -- Matthew Willis, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker -- are completely unproven. Thomas and Decker especially have plenty of catching up to do after missing the offseason recovering from surgeries, then getting hurt early in camp. McDaniels and Co., though, are convinced that their strength in numbers will result in a top-notch offense.

"I know that it's fun to watch when you really don't care where the ball goes and you don't know really know where it's going to go when the ball's snapped" the coach said.

"The other thing you really don't know is how exactly the defense is going to play you, because when you have a sure-fire guy that they're going to say, 'We've got to do a lot of things to take him away,' you know what's going to happen and you can game plan certain things away from it.

"But when we snap the ball there's five guys in the passing game that have a chance to get it. And they've all shown up in training camp."



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