Introducing, the first-round pick not named Tim Tebow.
The other guy. The guy the Broncos actually picked ahead of Tebow in the NFL draft.
In fact, before meeting this other guy, credit Tebow for helping set up the Broncos much needed 31-14 win Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in the hottest home opening game in Denver history.
With all the hype surrounding Tebow, the Broncos could keep their weapon secret until Demaryius Thomas was ready.
That’s the guy who introduced himself to the NFL on a 91-degree afternoon Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High.
- “He’s not a secret, though,’’ said Broncos coach Josh McDaniels as he walked out of the victorious home locker room. “I understand he’s a secret to you guys. But he’s one of a lot of guys we have.’’
The Broncos were up 14-0 against the mistake-prone Seahawks but hardly satisfied. With a little more than 3 minutes remaining till halftime, McDaniels decided to unleash his special talent.
Not Tebow, the acclaimed quarterback taken with the No. 25 overall pick, but Thomas, who was taken with considerably less fanfare at No. 22.
When drafted, Thomas was considered a raw receiver with great potential and a broken foot.
Today, Thomas’s greatest challenge will be coming up with an encore after he had eight catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in his limited NFL debut against the Seahawks.
“We thought he would be up [on the game-day roster],’’ said Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant. “But at the same time you are going up against him blind. He’s a big-time athlete. With his size, he presents matchup problems. He came out and did some good things. You can’t take anything away from him.’’
It started with 3:19 left in the first half. Replacing Brandon Lloyd at the split right end position, Thomas caught a receiver screen on third-and-14 and bolted up field for an 18-yard gain. On the next play, Thomas caught a 20-yard in.
Pure speed on one play. All 6-foot-3, 229 pounds of physical specimen on the next.
His career was under way.
“We had a couple plays designed where we wanted to get the ball in his hands,’’ said Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, who now has 602 yards passing and three touchdown passes in two games. “But you get hot, you keep feeding him the ball.’’
The former Georgia Tech go-route receiver caught four passes for 56 yards on that drive, which ended with a short Matt Prater field goal just before the half.
Wasn’t Thomas’ weakness supposed to be route running?
“I’ve been working on it a lot,’’ he said. “I feel like I’m decent at running routes. It paid off today.’’
Thomas went back to the bench until late in the third quarter. One more drive produced four more catches. This time it ended with Thomas catching a beautifully thrown 21-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline from Orton.
Lloyd got his catches, too, as did Eddie Royal. But with eight catches over two drives, it almost seemed like Thomas played the role of designated receiver.
“I wasn’t surprised, I knew I was going to get a couple catches,’’ Thomas said. “I just didn’t know how many.’’
Godspeed, Brandon Marshall. The Broncos’ former go-to receiver is now playing for the 2-0 Miami Dolphins.
But if anything was learned from Game 2 of the Broncos’ first season without Marshall, it’s that everybody is replaceable.
One of the differences between Marshall and Thomas was seen on the new guy’s first catch. Marshall’s tendency once he caught the ball was to run east and west, or sideline to sideline.
Thomas sprinted directly in the direction of the end zone.
“He knows how to run once he catches the ball,’’ Lloyd said.
“I think you saw a little bit of what we think he can be,’’ McDaniels said. “He’s a big-bodied guy that … I think the last play they got up there to jam him and he just kind of shrugged the guy off.’’
Tebow, meanwhile, didn’t take a snap. The ballyhooed Tebow Package was kept under wraps. Maybe that made it easier for the Broncos to spring Thomas on the NFL.
A player like this is only a secret once.