ENGLEWOOD - He is often called by his initials, D.T., but when Demaryius Thomas was at his best, he was all about the YAC.
Yards after the catch.
Thomas, the Denver Broncos’ No. 1 receiver, has gone from leading the NFL in yards after the catch in 2013 to ranking 47th in the YAC category last year.
Perhaps, the return of Mike McCoy and the bread-n-butter YAC play – the receiver screen – and a healthy hip will send Thomas on his way after the catch again in 2017.
“That was kind of one of my first thoughts -- the screen passes,’’ Thomas said following his team’s offseason workout Tuesday. “The years we played together with Mike were some of my best years. I look forward to it this year as well.”
In 2012, his first season with Peyton Manning as his quarterback and last season with McCoy as his offensive coordinator, Thomas ranked second among NFL receivers with 561 yards after the catch.
In 2013, McCoy left to become the San Diego Chargers’ head coach, but his offensive system stayed behind with Adam Gase and Manning, and Thomas led the NFL with a whopping 718 yards after the catch.
Last season, Thomas didn’t have McCoy, Manning or Gase and he recorded only 336 yards after the catch to rank 25th among receivers, 47th overall.
Not that full blame went to his supporting cast. Thomas wasn’t quite himself last season because of lingering hip problem.
“It was tough,’’ he said. “Sometimes, I couldn’t stop and sometimes I couldn’t run certain routes that I wanted to run. Sometimes, I couldn’t get off press because I had no power in it.’’
Thomas still had his fifth consecutive season of at least 90 catches and 1,000 yards receiving. That’s one way to look at his 2016 season. But Thomas’ 90 catches and 1,083 yards were also his lowest output since 2011.
That’s another way to look at it. Starting with last year’s training camp and carrying on through the final month of the season, Thomas was often seen holding and favoring his hip.
There was pain, but no need for surgery. Rehab did the trick.
“It was bad at times,’’ he said. “It got worse at some times. I never thought about surgery. I could get it, but I didn’t think I needed it and I don’t really need it.
“Right now, I feel great. I’ve been running routes and it hasn’t been bothering me. It just depends on how you get hit now. It’s basically maintaining the hips.”
Manning is still gone and he ain’t coming back, but Thomas hopes McCoy’s return can rekindle the offensive magic from a few years ago, regardless of whether Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch emerges as his quarterback.
Play calling is significant to YAC. The vertical throws aren’t necessarily good for YAC. Those catch-and-run screens, though, are made for YAC.
“We’ve got the potential now as well because it’s the same offense and the same system,’’ Thomas said. “You will have guys running wide open over the field and it’s just about executing now. As it goes on, we’ll be sitting in a group with the receivers, running backs and quarterbacks watching those clips from those days when we broke the records and put up so many points throughout the year just so they can see it.”
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