Hen­der­son could help in pass­ing game

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Kos­mider

Bron­cos train­ing camp had en­tered its sec­ond week and Car­los Hen­der­son had yet to make his move.

Foot­balls thrown to­ward the rookie wide re­ceiver dur­ing the early days of camp of­ten hit his hands be­fore fall­ing to the grass. The drops stung be­cause they ham­pered the big-play abil­ity that helped him av­er­age 18.7 yards per catch at Louisiana Tech last sea­son.

“He’s try­ing a lit­tle too hard right now,” Bron­cos coach Vance Joseph said af­ter the team’s third prac­tice a week ago. “But he’ll be fine. It’s early.”

If Hen­der­son was fly­ing un­der the radar at the start of camp, he grabbed the spot­light Thurs­day. He made at least a half-dozen im­pres­sive grabs dur­ing full-team and 7-on-7 ses­sions, dis­play­ing the sep­a­rat­ing speed and elu­sive­ness that caused de­fend­ers to miss 48 tack­les on him last sea­son, ac­cord­ing to Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus.

As he flew down the left side­line and hauled in a deep throw from Pax­ton Lynch, land­ing just in front of the base of the or­ange­and-blue-dot­ted hill, fans had their best look yet at the ex­plo­sive­ness the Bron­cos are ea­ger to see out of the 5-foot-11, 199-pound re­ceiver.

“I’m start­ing to get more com­fort­able ev­ery day with the play­book,” Hen­der­son said. “I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m learn­ing more than I knew when I first came in here. I’m just continuing

to learn and learn.”

Part of the learn­ing process for Hen­der­son has been dis­cov­er­ing how con­di­tioned he has to be to suc­cess­fully com­pete in the NFL. Joseph said Hen­der­son wasn’t in the proper shape dur­ing work­outs in the spring or at the be­gin­ning of train­ing camp.

Joseph cred­ited Hen­der­son’s break­out day Thurs­day with the rookie reach­ing the proper level of con­di­tion­ing.

“You have to do what the coaches ask, so if they want you to be in shape you have to be in shape,” Hen­der­son said. “You’ve got to be in foot­ball shape to play the game. That’s im­por­tant so that you don’t get tired, phys­i­cally or men­tally. It’s al­ways im­por­tant to be mov­ing fast and play­ing fast. It’s be­ing con­sis­tent.”

Still, Hen­der­son said his big­gest growth dur­ing camp has come from a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike McCoy’s scheme. Joseph said Fri­day that all of the team’s wide re­ceivers com­pet­ing for spots along­side vet­er­ans De­mary­ius Thomas and Em­manuel San­ders have to mas­ter the in­tri­ca­cies of all three re­ceiv­ing po­si­tions.

It’s like on-the-job train­ing for three com­pli­cated jobs at once.

“You’ve got to know what ev­ery­body’s got to do,” Hen­der­son said. “You have to know all the con­cepts. I’m learn­ing, tak­ing it one prac­tice and one day at a time, and get­ting bet­ter as the days go on.”

Cody La­timer, the fourth-year re­ceiver who is one of sev­eral play­ers vy­ing for the No. 3 re­ceiv­ing spot along­side Thomas and San­ders, sees some par­al­lels in the start Hen­der­son had to train­ing camp to his own as a sec­ond-round pick out of In­di­ana in 2014.

“He came in and kind of re­minds me of me,” La­timer said. “I came in like a deer in the head­light my rookie year. Even­tu­ally, you start get­ting it, man. He’s get­ting it and now he’s start­ing to play his game.”

The Bron­cos have one of the best wide re­ceiver duos in the NFL in Thomas and San­ders. But find­ing con­sis­tent pro­duc­tion else­where at wide re­ceiver was a prob­lem for the Bron­cos last sea­son. No player on the cur­rent train­ing camp ros­ter out­side of Thomas and San­ders had more than 16 catches.

That has cre­ated op­por­tu­nity among the group — in­clud­ing Hen­der­son, La­timer, Jor­dan Tay­lor, Mar­lon Brown and rookie Isa­iah McKen­zie — bat­tling for not only a spot on the ros­ter, but for a chance to make plays when the reg­u­lar sea­son be­gins Sept. 11.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are com­pet­ing for that third spot,” Joseph said Fri­day. “Not just a slot po­si­tion, but the third re­ceiver be­cause Mike’s vi­sion is to have (San­ders) in the slot and (Thomas) in the slot. He’s look­ing for the best guy to be the third re­ceiver to play all three spots.”

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