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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Tim Tebow isn’t fretting over losing his top target in a trade this week or the idea that another one of his receivers also wanted out of Denver.
The Broncos’ new starting quarterback said he has faith Eric Decker, Matt Willis, Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal will do just fine following the trade of Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd to the St. Louis Rams.
Thomas hasn’t played a down this season and Royal’s been out for a month with a strained groin. Both are expected to play Sunday in Miami when Tebow makes his first start of the season.
Lloyd said earlier this week that his desire to leave Denver had nothing to do with Tebow’s promotion, and on Wednesday, Tebow wished Lloyd “nothing but the best.”
“I know he’s going to have a great career there in St. Louis, but I really believe in our receivers here.” Tebow said. “I think we’ve got a lot of great receivers and I know any of them can at any time step up and make big plays and I know they’re going to.”
Royal said he’s happy to be in Denver after reports surfaced over the weekend that he also wanted to be dealt by Tuesday’s trade deadline.
“Of course I’m happy to be here. I love playing for the Broncos, love the fans, love the organization,” Royal said. “I never requested a trade. I don’t know where that came from. I’m happy to be here and excited to get back on the field with my guys.”
Asked if his agent, Todd France, had sought a trade on his behalf, Royal told The Associated Press he hadn’t talked to his agent about being dealt. France didn’t immediately return a message left by the AP.
Royal said he was excited to play with Tebow, and the former Florida star said the feeling was mutual, suggesting all this trade talk didn’t harm his relationship with the most experienced receiver remaining on the roster.
“It’s not uncomfortable at all. Eddie is a great guy. We’re great friends,” Tebow said. “I know he loves being here as a Bronco and we love having him. I know he’s going to be a great asset coming back out here and working with us, and I know he’s going to be a great asset for the rest of the season.”
The Broncos dealt away their best deep threat in Lloyd, and they’re hoping Thomas, last year’s top pick — taken three spots ahead of Tebow at No. 22 — will fill that role once he gets up to speed now that he’s recovered from a broken left pinkie and a torn right Achilles tendon.
“He’s had some tough luck,” football chief John Elway said on the team’s webcast this week. “But we’re happy he’s back. And he’s happy he’s back and we’ve got high hopes for him. He’s a fast, big target that can really do things after he catches the ball.”
Elway cautioned, however, that “we’re going to have to work him back. It’s not going to be a situation where he’s going to jump in there and go every single play.”
Same with Royal, Elway noted.
That leaves Decker, who figures to face opponents’ top cornerback now that Lloyd is gone, and Willis, who could stretch the field and keep defenses from stacking the box to stop the scrambling Tebow and running back Willis McGahee, who has three 100-yard games in the last month.
Decker said he feels defenses won’t double-cover any of the Broncos’ remaining receivers.
“I think they’ll probably play a lot of straight-up defenses, base coverages, they probably won’t cloud to one guy’s side,” he said. “But at the same time, if I do go against the best cornerback on a team, it’s a challenge I’m willing to take and excited about.”
Willis said he expects teams to put eight defenders near the line of scrimmage and dare the Broncos to prove that even without Lloyd they can still throw the ball with Tebow, a career 49 percent passer.
“Absolutely, that’s going to be every team from here on out until we do prove it, point blank,” Willis said.
And they will, McGahee suggested.
“That’s a good thing about it. It’ll be 1-on-1 coverage out there if they’re stacking the box,” McGahee said. “It’ll be their job to beat those guys.”
Rookie right tackle Orlando Franklin, who is now protecting Tebow’s blind side, said he has to be cognizant of staying engaged with his defender longer with a scrambling quarterback in the pocket: “You’ve got to block for at least four seconds each play,” he said.
Decker said Tebow has made great progress from last year, when he started the final three games. Back then, Tebow was so amped up that he’d sometimes mumble the play calls in the huddle, Decker said.
“He got so excited at times and we’d be like, `Hold, on. Buddy, we’ve got to be able to line up and run a play.’ So, he’s doing a better job of calming himself down because he’s such a fiery guy,” Decker said.
The Broncos insist their offense won’t be drastically different with Tebow at quarterback instead of Kyle Orton, although they’ll tailor the game plan to Tebow’s vastly different skill set.
“Nothing’s changed,” Willis said. “It’s just a different quarterback. We might have a play with him that we like better than we did with Orton but it’s not a play that we haven’t run before.”
Coach John Fox practically cringed at the notion that there will be some chemistry issues with his new quarterback and his young corps of wide receivers.
“Those guys have been with us since camp. It’s not like they’re all off the street and haven’t practiced with us — and I’m talking about quarterback and wide receiver,” Fox said. “Is it new as far as starting? Yes, for some of them. But we practiced a lot, we’ve spent a lot of time out there. I know sometimes it may not look like it on game day, but we do. So, they’re familiar with each other.”
Aside from Thomas, the rest of Tebow’s versatile targets can also play in the slot.
“I think the defense has to be honest because all of them are deep threats, all of them have the ability to catch and run, and they all, I believe, have great competitive excellence,” Tebow said. “When their number’s called, they can all step up and make big plays at important parts in the game.”
AP Sports Writers Pat Graham and Steven Wine contributed.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)