Broncos Receivers and Tight End Grades From Win Over Tampa Bay

Oct 2, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA;Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) catches the ball for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA;Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) catches the ball for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos have plenty of talent at receiver, and they showed it during their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, they are hurting at tight end and it showed at times during the game. Just how did their receivers and tight ends grade out?

The quarterbacks for the Denver Broncos have plenty of talent for them to throw to, which helps them look so good. Their receiving corps is one of the best in the NFL, and it extremely deep. Their tight ends on the other hand, are a solid group that has dealt with some major injury issues.

In their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Broncos were without their top tight end Virgil Green. Green has been out with a calf injury, and has missed two games so far. When he has played this season, he has emerged as a dynamic receiving threat to go along with his great blocking.

Without him, they have had to rely on other tight ends, who haven’t really filled that void. They also turned to their receivers and started using their depth guys more often. That is just in the passing game. Green’s void in the run game has been hard to evaluate due to the poor play of the offensive line.

Tight Ends

With Green out, John Phillips got his second start of the season. He isn’t the best receiving tight end, but his blocking is really solid. His biggest issue as a receiver is, Phillips lacks athleticism. Tight ends have become one of the most athletic positions in the NFL, which isn’t Phillips. He is a strong, slow blocking type who can make a play here or there.

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That sums up his game against the Buccaneers. He didn’t record a catch and lacked the speed/quickness to separate, as well as the athleticism to make himself a target even when covered. Phillips did well as a blocker, but he did have much help. This earned him a 64.8 grade.

Behind him was Jeff Heuerman, who was playing his second game of his young career. He showed what he can do as a receiver, and got himself his second catch of the season. However, blocking is a big weakness for him and he has to clean up his route running. Heuerman earned a 65.3 grade on the game.

Starting Receivers

The two starting receivers for the Broncos, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, played great games. They didn’t put up the stats they did against the Bengals, but they looked cleaner with their play. Their route running looked a bit more crisp and their blocking looked the best it has of the season.

Thomas had the better day when looking at the stats. He caught six of the seven passes thrown his way for 94 yards and a touchdown and looked really good overall. There is still work to do as a blocker, but that is improved from what he was showing last season. Thomas has a serious size advantage over the 5’10” Buccaneers corners, but he beat them in other ways for the most part.

As for Sanders, the Buccaneers corners couldn’t handle his combination of speed, quickness, and toughness. Sanders is willing to put his body on the line to make the catch, and he did that once or twice. He is really a treat to watch and has become the better receiver on the team.

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Both receivers graded out really well with a 89.7 for Thomas and a 92.7 for Sanders. Thomas needs to show more as a blocker, but that is something that may never happen. As for Sanders, he needs to be careful with his body, or he is likely to get seriously hurt.

Backup Receivers

Jordan Norwood was a pleasant surprise. Normally he looks soft when contact is arriving, but he dished out a hit to pick up some extra yards. His fighting for yards isn’t something seen often, as he tends to go down at first contact. Norwood earned a 86.4 grade.

Former second round pick Cody Latimer has been really disappointing in his career. He was targeted twice against the Buccaneers, but didn’t come down with either one. Last season he got regulated to a blocking role because of how good of a blocker he is.

This year, he blocking took a small dive. He is more inconsistent than he was a year ago and has shown some really sloppy technique. Many Broncos fans had really high hopes for him, but he has been climbing the ladder to being a bust. He has 11 catches in his career so far. As for this game, he earned a mediocre 56.3 grade.

Finally Bennie Fowler was really showcased, but ended up playing poorly. He was targeted three times, came down with none of them and had two drops. It was said he has the best hands on the team, but his two drops were really bad.

Before the drops, Fowler was excellent. He used his size, speed and quickness combination to create separation to get the ball thrown his way. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t come down with the ball and that earned him a 32.8 grade.


Jordan “Sunshine” Taylor has looked great in his limited action on the season. Against the Buccaneers, his play was reminiscent of another #87 that Denver had. Taylor only caught one pass that went for nine yards, but on that single play he made multiple defenders miss. Then he finished the play with a hit to add an extra yard.

Taylor got a lot of praise from Peyton Manning a year ago, and it was all deserved. With the way he has played so far, he really should be seeing more time than he is. Issue is, he is stuck behind a group of talented receivers. Taylor earned the high-grade of 92.9 on the game.

Next: Broncos RB and OL Grades From Win Over Tampa Bay

That wraps up the grades for the offense. Next up will be the defense. They were tremendous in their victory over the Buccaneers and really put a beating on them. It all started up front with their defensive line, and they’re the first group to get graded.