CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- He wasn't being arrogant or smug -- just confident.
When asked by Denver7 how he viewed the race for the Broncos' third wide receiver spot, Bennie Fowler was blunt.
"I don’t really think it’s about competing for the No. 3. I like to compete with Emmanuel (Sanders) and Demaryius (Thomas). They push me so much. They have done it year in and year out," said Fowler, a former star at Michigan State. "Don’t get me wrong. I am competing with Cody (Latimer), and both Jordans (Norwood and Taylor), but at the same time I am competing with Demaryius and Emmanuel as well."
Fowler continued his strong showing on Thursday with several big catches, including a long pass from Trevor Siemian. Reliability creates separation on depth charts, and Fowler has drawn the attention of his boss; never a bad thing for a young player trying to scale the ladder.
"Bennie has had an excellent camp," coach Gary Kubiak said. "As a player when you get in that third year, you start to see, 'Hey I can be a starter.' I think that's what's going on with Bennie. He sees himself at another level, and he's willing to work for it. So I am very proud of him."
Fowler moved ahead of Latimer, a second-round pick in 2014, last season. While Latimer excelled on special teams, Fowler became trusted in limited opportunities. He caught 16 passes for 203 yards and was targeted at least three times in five games. Fowler delivered a critical first down catch to clinch the divisional round win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and caught Peyton Manning's final pass, a two-point conversion in the Super Bowl 50 victory over Carolina.
Fowler responded to his taste of success with improvement. Like Demaryius Thomas, who is playing at his high school weight of 222 pounds, Fowler dropped from 217 to 210 pounds this offseason.
"I feel smoother, I feel quicker. I feel better," Fowler said. "And it’s my second year with the staff, second year with the offense, so I am a lot more comfortable playing inside and out. I am just enjoying this camp more. The coaches know what I can do. I just need to be more consistent."
Coaching up the QBs
The Broncos open the preseason Thursday at Chicago. In the past, the quarterback plan was mapped out, with reps the primary concern. This summer everything is different with no set starter. Coach Kubiak will continue to look for specific hallmarks in helping to make his decision. He has admitted the games will be important in creating separation.
"We will get them ready to play. Like everything I try to do out here, there are things I want to see," Kubiak said. "I need to decide what those are between now and next Thursday."
Unguarded or on guard?
With right guard Ty Sambrailo out (hyperextended right elbow) and left guard Max Garcia easing back in following an ankle injury, the door remains open at the position. Darrion Weems, a fourth-year player from Oregon, received reps at right guard on Friday. At 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, Weems is a mountain of a man. He's built like a tackle, which is what he's always been.
"We brought him inside. It’s a lot easier to move from outside in than inside out," Kubiak said. "We are trying to take a look at him. He’s a bigger kid. We are just trying to let him compete."
He joins multiple players getting looks, among them Michael Schofield, rookie Connor McGovern and backup center James "Brick" Ferentz.
Former CSU star Kapri Bibbs remains in the hunt for a reserve running back spot. He's more explosive in the ground game, improved in pass protection and has made a strong early impression on special teams.
"When we are protecting he’s protecting. That’s been a big issue. He’s playing well for Joe (DeCamillis). Obviously when a special teams coach is in there banging for a player everyday it helps," Kubiak said. "I think Kapri’s a different kid. He’s sees an opportunity and is taking advantage."
The Broncos signed offensive lineman Mathu Gibson, and waived/injured Sam Brenner, who suffered a concussion earlier in camp.
Rookie defensive tackle Adam Gotsis continues to make progress with his recovery from ACL surgery. Kubiak said he expects to play at Chicago.