ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Bennie Fowler isn’t content to be known as the guy who caught Peyton Manning’s last NFL pass. With the work he’s putting in during training camp, the Denver Broncos wideout is planning on hauling in more receptions this season.
Fowler is one of several young receivers competing for the No. 3 spot behind veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in coach Gary Kubiak’s offense. Cody Latimer, Jordan Norwood and Jordan Taylor also have made an impression in the first eight days of camp.
That quartet is feeling more comfortable after one year in Kubiak’s offense. All have made plays in camp that brought cheers from the fans on hand and adulation from veterans and coaches.
“The guys in the front office definitely got a tough decision to make in terms of who they’re going to keep because every guy out here’s been making plays,” said Sanders, who enjoyed a day off Friday. “It’s a very positive thing that we’ve got so much depth that they have to make a tough decision. I feel like the wide receiver corps can be the central point of this offense and this team.”
With Manning retired and Kubiak’s emphasis on running the ball, the passing game isn’t expected to be as big a factor as it was the last four seasons. The receivers are trying to make a case for throwing the ball more, even with the uncertainty at quarterback.
“It’s extremely competitive and that’s a good thing for us,” Kubiak said.
The young receivers have taken turns making big plays and helping each of the quarterbacks look good in scrimmages this week. Fowler made a catch down the sidelines on a throw from Trevor Siemian, Norwood got a ball in traffic from Mark Sanchez over the middle later Friday and rookie Mose Frazier caught a fade from rookie Paxton Lynch in the corner of the end zone.
Latimer and Taylor also have had their moments.
“Bennie Fowler’s been making plays, Cody’s been making plays, Jordan Taylor’s been making plays,” Sanders said. “It’s a good thing.”
Fowler, Latimer and Norwood already have played on the biggest stage, so training camp is not as intimidating. Norwood set a Super Bowl record with a 61-yard punt return and Fowler caught a 2-point conversion that gave Denver a 24-10 lead on Carolina with 3:08 left, effectively clinching the championship.
It turned out to be the last completion of Manning’s 18-year career, and Fowler later gave the ball to the quarterback.
Instead of resting on that play, Fowler has elevated his game, which Kubiak has noticed.
“Bennie’s had an excellent camp,” the coach said. “When you get into that third year you start to see, ‘Hey, I can be a starter.’ Bennie sees himself at another level and he’s willing to work toward it. I’m very proud of him.”
Fowler spent 2014 on the practice squad and finished 2015 with 16 receptions for 203 yards in addition to playing special teams. He’s counting on that versatility to earn his spot this season.
“Special teams is the way I made the team last year and that’s the way I’m going to make it this year,” he said.
NOTES: The Broncos waived G/C Sam Brenner and signed rookie OL Mathu Gibson. Brenner had been out after suffering a concussion early in camp. … Latimer practiced Friday, a day after having his hand examined. … Many veterans sat out or were limited in Friday’s practice. Chris Harris Jr., Derek Wolf, T.J. Ward and Brandon Marshall were among the defensive players that didn’t practice. Von Miller took part early.
Michael Kelly is a reporter for the Associated Press.