Cody Latimer is not a second-round bust.
He’s the Denver Broncos best special teams player (among non kickers).
Sure, Latimer thought he’d have more than 18 catches and one touchdown three games into his fourth season with the Broncos.
But he is one of the best punt coverage “gunners” in the NFL and he’s had two kickoff returns of 36 yards.
“It took a while but once you learn patience and … ‘’ Latimer said before his mind wandered to the impact his 21-month-old son Jacolby has had on his game. “Once you have a little one, having my son, it really teaches you to be prepared for him. I think life lessons teaches you patience. I guess life was telling me to chill, relax, your time is going to come. So I do what I can, when I can, on (special) teams. Make the most of the opportunities I get on offense.’’
It’s a bigger deal than some people realize that Latimer is listed as “questionable” for the Broncos’ game Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. He has been battling tendonitis in his right knee since the preseason and it flared up on him while playing on the artificial surface at Buffalo’s New Era Field last Sunday.
Latimer was limited in practice Wednesday, then sat out Thursday in hopes of getting the knee right.
“The goal is to be out there Sunday (against the Raiders),’’ Latimer said. “That’s what we’re working towards.’’
If he doesn't make it, special teams coordinator Brock Olivo said rookie Brendan Langley would handle "gunner" duties and either Isaiah McKenzie or Langley would return kickoffs.
"We're going to miss Cody big time if he's not going,'' Olivo said.
Latimer was part of the great receiver class in the 2014 NFL draft, the 10th of 13 at the position selected in the first two rounds. At the time, Broncos general manager John Elway said one reason he zeroed in on Latimer with the No. 56 overall pick is because he was “he was the best blocking wide receiver, by far, in the draft. … To me, that’s what separated him.’’
A receiver who takes pride in blocking is a receiver who becomes an excellent special teams player, which Latimer has been each of his four seasons in Denver.
There was hope Latimer’s basketball athleticism that includes an ability to outjump any player in the league that he would become a terrific red zone finisher.
That hasn’t happened as he could never squeeze ahead of Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders on the Broncos’ play sheet.
Latimer will become a free agent after this season.
“I’m not worried about all that,’’ he said. “Just doing what I can and help the team and stay focused and whatever happens, happens.’’
In the season finale last season, Oakland receiver Michael Crabtree started jawing at Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib responded by ripping Crabtree's gold chain off his neck.
“I’m not worried about ‘Crab boy’s’ chain,'' Talib said Friday. "I’m not worried about any of that. I’m worried about what routes these guys are running, what concepts these guys are running and stuff like that. So that’s the last thing I’m worried about.”
Head coach Vance Joseph called for the fake punt at Buffalo, but Olivo said it was his fault it failed. The Broncos snapped the ball to upback De'Angelo Henderson who only got 1 yard on the fourth-and-2 attempt.
“We practiced it all week against that situation right there and Buffalo really walked right into it,'' Olivo said. "They gave us exactly what we wanted and we needed a shot in the arm in that moment. Vance made the right call. The onus is on me as the special teams coach. I didn’t get it done. It wasn’t an arbitrary decision by Vance, ‘Hey let’s do this because I’m feeling it.’ It’s because it was the exact situation that we wanted.
"I was the one that let Vance down on that. We had a player report late so we didn’t get the element of surprise that we needed for that scheme. We had a snap that was high and inside and it took the running back off the course. The whole thing broke down and that’s on me.''