The first obstacle in topping the record -- Calvin Johnson's 1,964 yards from 2012 -- is grasping coach Gary Kubiak's new offense after Thomas missed the entire offseason program holding out for the massive new contract he finally landed last week. Much was made of quarterback Peyton Manning's annoyance with Thomas missing practices, but Broncos receivers coach Tyke Tolbert says the Pro Bowl wideout did plenty of work on the side.
"He actually saw a lot of film on it, too, because we sent him all the tape and all the cut-ups and all the practices we had," Tolbert said, per the team's official website. "So he's been studying on his own and keeping up to speed as much as you could without being here."
Tolbert also emphasized that Kubiak hasn't pressed Ctrl+Alt+Del on last year's attack, saying: "We still have a lot of our old offense involved, so we'll have some of that mixture in so (Thomas) obviously won't have to relearn any of that stuff. ... His learning curve won't be as steep because he really only has to learn half the offense, if you will."
Kubiak is viewed as a play-caller who doesn't give up on the run, no matter the situation -- one reason C.J. Anderson's value is blowing up in fantasy circles. But under the coach, former Texans wideout Andre Johnson posted three 1,500-yard campaigns, one 1,400-yard season and another 1,200-yard performance over a six-year span. The fear is that Kubiak wants to run the ball all day long, but since 2006, his offenses have finished an average of 15th (15.2) in rushing attempts in the NFL -- and top 10 in that category only twice.
"The good news about this particular offense is I think it's very wide-receiver friendly from a standpoint where the offense coach Kubiak is bringing is very detailed from a standpoint where it kind of tells you, as a receiver, more times than not, what you actually have on that particular route," Tolbert said. "A lot of routes we have are concepts as well, but more times than not it's very specific on X, you have this; Z, he has this; F has this."
Thomas put up a personal best of 1,619 yards last year and noted that only a slow start prevented him from creeping close to Megatron's record. Demaryius was held to 48, 62 and 31 yards over the first three weeks of the season before banging the Arizona Cardinals for 226 yards in Week 4 -- the first of a whopping 10 100-yard outings in 2014.
Beyond the playbook, the pressing question in Denver is Manning's health and durability after he finished last year as a broken-down passer battling a debilitating quad injury. As Chris Wesseling noted on the 'cast, 39-year-old signal-callers "aren't known for taking bold chances down the field and throwing balls into tight windows."
Thomas will see plenty of short-range targets that ask him to pick up yards in the open field. It helps that he's one of the NFL's premier yards-after-the-catch receivers, but Demaryius will need to light it up out of the gate and keep the fire burning for a chance at Megatron's mark.
We're not putting it past him, though, because the Broncos -- despite all the offseason questions -- still house the requisite fire power to finish as a top-five offense, if not higher.