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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Virgil Green has emerged as the most versatile member of Denver's offense.
Last month alone, the fourth-year pro from Nevada lined up as a traditional tight end, split out wide and in the slot, at H-back, halfback and fullback.
No wonder Peyton Manning lamented losing him to a concussion early in Denver's 26-20 overtime loss at Seattle last month, suggesting his departure forced the Broncos (2-1) to crumple much of their game plan.
Football fans tend to overlook Green, a member of the same 2011 draft class as Julius Thomas, a fantasy player's dream who has caught an AFC-high 17 touchdown passes since 2013.
Green is still searching for the end zone. He has 19 career catches and one carry. Yet, his coaches and teammates recognize his across-the-board importance.
"People don't notice the little things, but he's a very big part of our offense," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "Without Virgil, our offense won't be able to run like we want it to."
They saw that at Seattle when Green went out in the first half and the Broncos fell behind 17-3 before Manning staged a furious fourth-quarter rally that tied it.
"I thought Virgil's injury was significant," Manning said afterward. "We had a good drive with him in there. Once he went out it limited some of the things we wanted to do (with formations), and I thought we became one-dimensional because of his injury and score. That is not what you want to do with these guys."
The two-tight end sets the Broncos rely on so heavily depend on Green's multifaceted skill set.
"His ability to be a dual threat for us in pass protection and run blocking" makes him so vital, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said Thursday. "And then he does enough in the passing game to where you can't fall asleep on him. He's a very powerful guy and brings a little different aspect for us at that position."
Green takes all these comments as compliments.
"It does mean a lot to me, but at the same token I have to be consistent. There have been times where I haven't been real consistent this year," Green said. "One of my focuses is to be consistent, especially in the run game, get things going for us because I know we're going to handle things in the passing game. But as long as I can move guys off the line of scrimmage and be consistent with it, our offense will be flawless."
Although Thomas is a Pro Bowler in line for a megadeal, Green insisted there's really not that much that separates the two fourth-year tight ends.
"I really don't think me and Julius are really all that different," Green said. "He's just had more opportunities. Athletically, I'm as fast as Julius. I can move just like Julius. I'm as smart as Julius. So, I don't think there's too much of a discrepancy there."
That's why Green cringes at the notion that Thomas is a receiving tight end and he is a blocking tight end.
"I think we have all-round tight ends," Green said. "If you look at our offense, I don't just line up and block. A lot of times I do go to fullback. Sometimes I am split out. So, we have a lot of versatile tight ends and I don't think that I'm just a blocking guy. If my number's called, I can do work, too."
Still, there are some obvious differences between the two.
"'Virg' does a great job of helping us in our run game," Thomas said. "He's a guy that goes out there and gets after it every single play. We can count on him to be a guy that's going to set the tone."
With a thicker upper torso, Green uses brute force to block whereas Thomas relies more on leverage.
"I take pride in moving guys off the line of scrimmage. That's my forte. But for Julius, he knows how to position and do things like that," Green said. "So, in that sense we're different because I want to be a bruiser."
Green would love to catch some TD passes like Thomas, who leads the NFL with five so far.
"Of course. If I were to sit here and say I wouldn't like to score touchdowns, that would be a blatant lie," he said. "But at the same token, I know my role in the offense and all I want to do is win. I want to win a Super Bowl."
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