ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Jerry Jeudy had zero touchdowns last season with the Denver Broncos, who averaged fewer than 20 points per game for the fifth consecutive season as their search for a solution at quarterback continued.
A touchdown-less Jeudy was not the plan when the Broncos selected him in the first round of the 2020 draft out of Alabama, where he scored 24 times during his final two seasons. With that in mind, no player on the Broncos’ roster may benefit more from quarterback Russell Wilson’s arrival than Jeudy, who seems to know as much.
“There are things you can control and things you can’t control,” said Jeudy, who caught most of his passes from Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater during his first two NFL seasons. “Those first two years are gone now, so I’m just focused on this year.”
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Jeudy had actually offered a glimpse of his promise in last season’s opener. He had 72 yards receiving on six catches, with just under nine minutes remaining in the third quarter against the New York Giants when he suffered a high right ankle sprain on a tackle by James Bradberry.
He was taken to the locker room on a cart, missed the next six games and never really recovered that momentum as the Broncos offense became a mish-mash of ill-fitting pieces in an often ill-fitting scheme. Enter Wilson, who arrived with plenty of fanfare, big plans and a pedal-to-the-metal approach from his first moments in the Broncos’ complex.
Wilson has already seen for himself what Jeudy can do. During the Broncos’ voluntary veteran minicamp last month, several players said Wilson’s on-field connection with Jeudy was easy to see.
“A guy like Jerry Jeudy — just being around him — we’ve had some amazing discussions and some amazing talks,” Wilson said. “We’ve put the extra work in.”
“He could help me a lot, he’s a great quarterback, a Hall of Fame quarterback that came to the offense as a leader,” Jeudy said. “[He is] getting me better as well. He’s going to help me a lot this year. … Just the energy. [He’s] always uplifting guys and always motivating guys to go out there and keep working hard … he’s the guy that comes up and gets your mind right for it.”
The Broncos haven’t exactly been the “wide receiver heaven” Emmanuel Sanders once described during the Peyton Manning era. They’ve had a turnstile at quarterback and four different offensive coordinators over the past five years.
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During that time the Broncos have had one wide receiver — Courtland Sutton in 2019 — finish with at least 1,000 yards and tight end Noah Fant — now with the Seattle Seahawks — led the team in receptions in each of the past two years. Last season, the team’s top three wide receivers — Sutton, Jeudy and Tim Patrick — finished with a combined seven touchdowns (five of those coming from Patrick), or nine fewer than league leader Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams.
After the season, Broncos general manager George Paton, who signed both Sutton and Patrick to contract extensions in November, was crystal clear that improvement needed to be made across the board on offense. He was especially clear about the receivers, who he said “have to be better and we need to do everything we can to get the best out of them, we all want that, but there’s no question they have to be better.”
Jeudy’s scoreless season, though he continued to show elite route-running chops that consistently created room for him to work, was marred by some drops. Jeudy was visibly frustrated at times playing in an offense that scored 13 or fewer points in five of the team’s final eight games.
Wilson has pushed throughout the team’s early on-field work this offseason for “game-altering plays” in the passing game.
“I call them gap plays,” Wilson said. “It’s three or four plays, or maybe just one or two that change the game and the situational awareness of that. Where did the game shift? Where did the game change? That was a big part of it for me. What have been the strengths and what are maybe the areas of improvement?”