The prevailing thought by many over the past six months has been as follows: If Broncos WR Eric Decker could be successful playing with Tim Tebow (44 catches for 612 yards and eight touchdowns last season), imagine his ceiling playing with Peyton Manning.
The same went for Demaryius Thomas, and it was certainly a common idea among fantasy owners, too. The premise seemed accurate, as Manning has made a career of making everyone around him better, which is not the same label Tebow, known for his inaccuracy, received.
Decker, a third-year pro, had five catches for 54 yards in the Broncos’ season-opening win over the Steelers. In an interview with PFW after Week One, Decker said Manning already has made him a “better football player.”
“The way I work, the way I watch film, how to read coverages, make adjustments on routes and focusing more on technique work and getting in and out of my cuts,” he explained. “The biggest thing about (Manning) is he’s an anticipator. He throws the ball on time, so you have to be in the right spot at the right time. Those things have helped me focus more on my craft.”
Manning is considered to be a de facto offensive coordinator on the field. The Broncos’ offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, got some praise for what he did with Tebow last season, and interviewed for head-coaching positions. This season, McCoy has a unique situation with Manning, but Decker said they have handled it well.
“Mike McCoy is a very smart guy. He calls a very good game,” Decker said. “Having Peyton helps as well — someone who can be a player-coach and see an adjustment on the field. Sometimes it’s hard for coaches to see what the fronts are or what (the defenses) are playing because, from the sideline, you get a different look. … They complement each other well.”
The Broncos’ offense really got into a rhythm against Pittsburgh when it started using Manning’s specialty, the no-huddle, yet another new wrinkle for Denver.
“It allows us to take advantage of fatigue defensively and if we’re moving the ball with a rhythm, keeping that rhythm going,” Decker said. “As far as learning the no-huddle, it’s about experience, and we got a lot in the offseason and training camp running it.”
The big question heading into the season for Broncos receivers was always being on the same page as Manning, who is constantly barking out calls at the line. Decker said that looking back at the Pittsburgh game, there was room for improvement involving signals and routes on offense, but that Manning’s new pass catchers have stayed up to speed.
“As a receiving corps in general, we’ve done a pretty good job of being on the same page and understanding his demands and his goals,” Decker said. “Obviously, there is work to be done. There’s always something you can get better at. What can we do today or what can we do tomorrow to get better on Sunday or Monday night?”
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