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With Thomas gone, rookie WR Sutton under scrutiny
After trading wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to the Texans this week, in time for him to join Houston and play against the Broncos on Sunday, Denver is faced with pulling off a transition in their receivers corps in the middle of the season. Veteran holdover Emmanuel Sanders steps into the leadership role for the Broncos and ascends to the No. 1 spot in Denver's receiver cadre.
Rookie Courtland Sutton moves into the starting lineup in place of Thomas after showing promise and big-play capability as a reserve. Tim Patrick, who made the roster out of training camp after spending last year on the practice squad, also figures to see a lot more playing time as the Broncos reconfigure their receiver corps. Another young receiver, DaeSean Hamilton, has been slowed this week by a knee injury.
Head coach Vance Joseph said he appreciated all that Thomas did for the Broncos in his eight years with the team but he also believes in his young, up-and-coming group.
"Courtland can be special," Joseph said. "We've all watched him during training camp and through the first two months of the season. He's got special ability. Now, he has got to prove it, along with DaeSean Hamilton and along with Tim Patrick. We've got some young guys that we think are capable. It speaks to our receiver room. It's a young room, but it's talented."
Sanders said he's lending his support and insight to his younger counterparts.
"We've got a great room," Sanders said. "Those young guys are hungry as well. The only thing I do is hold them accountable and just try and help as much as I can."
Quarterback Case Keenum said while he'll miss Thomas, he has faith in all of his receivers.
"Obviously, as a quarterback, when you look to the left and right, just what kind of feelings do you get," Keenum said. "It's an unspoken kind of chemistry, non-verbal. You can call it a lot of things, but I feel that way about all of those guys. I've got trust in all of those guys."
How they do will be on full display Sunday as will the play of Thomas as he makes his debut for the Texans.
SERIES HISTORY: 7th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 4-2. Denver has won three of the four games played in Denver. The teams last met on Oct. 24, 2016, a 27-9 victory for the Broncos in Denver.