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Replacing Wes Welker

Here's some of what you're likely to see as the Broncos offense looks to replace the production of Wes Welker.

Ronald Martinez

Who stepped up last season?

2013 Weeks 15-17 (Welker's injury)
Routes Targets Receptions Catch % Drops Drop % Yards Y/T TD's INT's
Tamme 63 8 7 87.5% 0 0.0% 60 7.5 0 0
Decker 57 10 6 60.0% 0 0.0% 109 10.9 1 0
Caldwell 9 2 2 100.0% 0 0.0% 18 9.0 1 0
D. Thomas 9 2 1 50.0% 1 50.0% 6 3.0 0 0
J. Thomas 20 3 2 66.7% 0 0.0% 33 11.0 0 0
Dreesen 2 0 0 0.0% 0 0.0% 0 0.0 0 0

The Broncos move people around, that's no secret.  The two guys that ran the most routes from the slot position with Welker out of the lineup last season were TE Jacob Tamme and Eric Decker.  We know that Eric Decker is no longer here.  The logical answer would be Emmanuel Sanders splitting time with Tamme in the slot.  Sanders is quick and shifty enough to win in space from the slot.  Someone who is a bit of a darkhorse at the moment is Cody Latimer.

Talking from a straight 11 personnel meat and potatoes Peyton Manning offense, you're going to see your primary personnel in that package as DT and Caldwell on the outside with Tamme, Sanders, and even Latimer getting some snaps from the slot.  The rotation is fluid and if you have a couple of guys in Sanders and Latimer that can do a bit of both, it gives OC Adam Gase tons of flexibility to work with.

Career Slot Production

Career Slot Production
Routes Targets Receptions Catch % Drops Drop % Yards Y/T TD's INT's
Tamme 432 95 63 66.3% 1 1.1% 508 5.3 3 0
Caldwell 641 126 82 65.1% 11 8.7% 668 5.3 6 3
Sanders 599 98 62 63.3% 5 5.1% 824 8.4 4 3

All three have some time at the slot with Sanders making the most out of his touches.  Again, I believe Caldwell will play more outside--but he did work extensively with the 1's and Peyton Manning during the 2013 Training Camp when Welker received some days off.

Now that you're starting to see a rotating group of receivers inside and out, here are some more interesting things the Broncos did last season to make up for Welker's missed time.

11 with Tamme in the slot

label it 12 personnel if you want, the label is less meaningful than the intent.  Tamme is clearly a slot WR with this personnel grouping.


Same personnel different alignment


Standard 11 with 2nd WR (Decker in this case) in slot


2TE, 3 WR sets


The Broncos used this extensively against the Texans.  They went empty spread and put their best 5 receivers on the field.

Things open up a bit

This actually opens up the offense more and makes Gase and Manning think a little more creatively with their personnel packages.  Though 11 is likely to remain the primary personnel package, you will see some more creative variations to get our talented receivers on the field.

In the end, Manning and his six shooters are down a bullet, nothing more.  Does this mean the early season emergence of Cody Latimer?  He'll get some snaps, I'm still a firm believer that Manning's comfort-ability will trump potential at this point.

We are replacing a red-zone target who also became a go-to guy on third downs.  Whoever earns Manning's trust on 3rd downs is likely to receive the lionshare of the snaps, but there will be rotation.  The pecking order at the moment stands at Tamme, Sanders, Latimer.

We will miss Wes, but in his absence there are plenty of capable bodies to shoulder the load.

Special Thanks to Topher Doll who provided the statistics used in this article