Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! Seven games don't quite make a season, but how about Emmanuel Sanders' 2014 campaign?
Denver's free agent bargain is now tied for fifth in the league in catches, is eighth in yards, and has just one touchdown fewer than he did in his first three seasons.
His season totals are already the second best of his career, and he needs only another 20 catches, 106 yards, and two scores to match his 2013 figures.
His PFF drop rate of 2.08% is seventh best in the league, after we were all told (by spurned Steelers fans) last offseason that drops were Emmanuel's Achilles' heel.
Of course, those Steelers fans have selective memories, as Sanders' 6.94% drop rate last year was good for 18th best among 43 qualifying receivers in 2013.
He's obviously improved over last year, but Emmanuel was far more reliable than he'd been portrayed.
Eric Decker, the player he replaced in Denver, wasn't quite as drop-prone as some of us might have thought either, as he ranked 25th in 2013, two spots better than Demaryius Thomas.
However, as Kenneth Arthur explains, Sanders has posted a far better catch rate (78.3%) this season than Decker did in 2013 (64.4%).
Per PFF's data, this is because 80% of Peyton Manning's throws to Sanders are catchable (48 of 60), while only 70.4% of his targets to Decker were catchable last year.
A few (speculative) possible explanations:
- Emmanuel's superior athleticism helps get him open more often than Decker's did
- Sanders is better with the lunchpail and studies harder than Decker (don't tell PFT Commenter)
- Adam Gase does a better job of getting Sanders open
- Manning just clicks better with Sanders than he did with Decker
- Peyton's throwing ability is continuing to improve as he gets farther away from his last neck surgery, even if he's also a year older
It may be all of those reasons, or it may be none.
Whatever the reason, Sanders is now on pace for the second most catches in a single season by any Bronco, as is Demaryius Thomas (who also has 47 catches). Rod Smith's 113 catches in 2001 is the franchise record.
Emmanuel's 1,449-yard pace would barely top Brandon Lloyd's #2 mark of 1,448 yards, but Demaryius is on pace (1,753) to break Smith's record (1,602).
At this point, our biggest question is when Sanders will ask John Elway to tear up his three-year deal. Elway did establish a strong precedent this past offseason though, by not redoing Terrance Knighton's own bargain two-year deal.
But that's a concern for future offseasons.
For now, let's all just enjoy watching Manning, Sanders, and the Thomases do their thing.
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