Ten days into training camp, there's a clear stratification among Broncos wide receivers.
At the top are third-year veterans Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Both showed flashes of brilliance the last two years, but struggled with injuries and inconsistent play at times. Neither had enjoyed anything close to a full offseason of work prior to this year because of pre-draft injuries in 2010 and the lockout in 2011.
With a full few months' of work and Peyton Manning flinging passes to them, the two appear to have taken massive leaps in their development. The notion that Decker is the possession pass-catcher and Thomas the deep threat is false -- both have been targeted all over the field by Manning. Expect that versatility to continue as they grow more comfortable with Manning.
Backups Andre Caldwell and Brandon Stokley appear to be safely on the 53-man roster, as well. Both will work most extensively as slot wide receivers, although either can bounce outside if injuries strike Thomas or Decker. Stokley has more experience with Manning, putting him ahead of Caldwell for the slot role, but given the 36-year-old's injury history in recent years, look for Caldwell to play at least as many snaps as Stokley when the regular season begins..
All of the competition appears to be at the back end of the group. If special teams proves to be the decisive factor, Matt Willis should have the edge, since he can contribute on returns and punt and kickoff coverage. Ex-Jacksonville and San Francisco wide receiver Jason Hill has been steady, but is buried on the depth chart. Young receivers Mark Dell, Tyler Grisham, Cameron Kenney, Greg Orton and Gerell Robinson could be fighting for a single practice-squad slot, although if any of them impress in the preseason, the Broncos might not be able to slip them through after final cuts.
Of those young wideouts, Robinson, an undrafted rookie from Arizona State, has been the smoothest and most consistent and appears to have the edge. Early in camp, Orton turned heads, but the former Arena Football League standout hasn't practiced since Aug. 1 because of an ankle injury.
Projected receivers: Decker, Thomas, Caldwell, Stokley, Willis.
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