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Jeff Heuerman amps up Broncos tight end intrigue

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With news of Virgil Green's finger surgery and subsequent absence from the majority of OTAs, the focus is squarely on the young player from Ohio State.

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Not since Shannon Sharpe has there been this kind of attention on the tight end in Denver. Aside from the quarterback position, the sole focus and intrigue this offseason is on the guys who play the position.

The tight end can play a crucial role for the Denver Broncos. It adds another element to the Gary Kubiak offense and makes it more difficult to plan against when you add Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and the resurgence of a dominant running game.

Hence the intrigue and so much focus on who could take the job this season.

The tight end news for the Broncos got an unexpected twist earlier this week.

After the first day of organized team activities, Kubiak announced that Virgil Green had finger surgery and will miss a good portion of the practices.

That opens the door for Jeff Heuerman and possibly Garrett Graham. In terms of the hype machine, the majority of the intrigue is on Heuerman. Much like Paxton Lynch, no one knows what he's capable of. Is Heuerman the next Rob Gronkowski? Or anything close to that? Until he plays a game, all we'll get is glimpses.

If his first practice is any indication, he's off to a strong start. Granted, as I said in my column about Kubiak fueling the motivation for a Super Bowl repeat, you need a dose of skepticism with what you hear, read and see over the next few months. Case in point: local talk radio host Darren McKee said Heuerman will be "da man."

I'll hold judgement until the pads go on, but it's no doubt a great sign. This offense allows tight ends to thrive, and if Heuerman is "the man," that makes the Broncos offense even better.

"Jeff looks good," Kubiak said. "Jeff is a young player. I think his work has been really good, but it's all been workouts and weight room. Now it's time for the football stuff. This will be a big month for Jeff."

Heuerman is already a step up from last season since he didn't get injured. As long as that remains the case, it's in his control who becomes the Broncos starting tight end.

If he continues to improve each day, the job is his.

"He's a good kid," Kubiak said. "He works hard at what he's doing. He's got a lot of talent. Let's see. In a lot of ways, he's a first-year player. Don't want to put too much pressure on him. I think he'll do that himself because he's very competitive. Take it one day at a time."

That doesn't mean Green won't get his chance, but the injury to his finger did him no favors. What it will do is force all of the tight ends to step up their game. As is the case with most of the positions on the field for Denver, this is an open competition, and may the best man win.

The ideal scenario is all of the Broncos tight ends play to their potential and make the decision for the coaching staff that much more difficult. There has been talk that Denver's offense will use more two tight end sets this season, and these guys need to make that happen. If Green and Heuerman get to the point they compliment each other and the quarterback and coaches trust them, this offense will click and make it tougher to defend.

"He looks pretty comfortable out there as far as knowing where to line (up on the field) and what to do," offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said of Heuerman earlier this week. "Like everybody else, he's still learning a little bit. It's one thing to hear it and the other thing is to practice it -€” any reps on the field doing anything.

"That's a crucial part of learning -€” going through and doing it. Doing the math problem on the board. You can't just think about it. You've got to go do it. We'll get him a chance. We like our group at tight end. We'll see what happens."