ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When Courtland Sutton arrived on the Broncos in 2018, his athleticism remained impossible to miss. He featured long arms and hops, so much so he played basketball at Southern Methodist University as a freshman before focusing on football.
In his first five seasons in the NFL, Sutton flashed promise, but was not a consistent force. He played with a carousel of 12 different starting quarterbacks and struggled to regain his burst following a torn ACL in 2020. His career highlight came in 2019, making the Pro Bowl in his only 1,000-yard season.
After the Broncos bottomed out a year ago, Sutton exited with two touchdowns in his previous 26 games. Something had to change. In between getting married and dealing with trade rumors, especially to Baltimore, Sutton adopted a new routine. He altered his body type, adding upper body strength, while leaning out.
“The past couple of years, there really hasn’t been any drastic change in my play. And I wanted to see something different,” Sutton said in early August as he began turning heads in training camp. “So, I couldn’t do the same thing and hope something was going to change.”
While Sutton believed he would excel, few expected this impact. He has found his rhythm with Russell Wilson, a synchronicity that has him on the verge of making history. He boasts 10 receiving touchdowns, four shy of the franchise record held by Demaryius Thomas (2013) and Anthony Miller (1995). He is also the first Denver player to reach double figures in receiving scores since 2014.
“He can catch everything,” Wilson said after the Broncos improved to 7-6 with their 24-7 win over the Chargers.
Sutton’s eye-opening performance goes beyond the red zone. It’s not the what, but the how. At 6-foot-4, roughly 216 pounds, Sutton has gone from a common target to The Matrix. He is bending and contorting his body in ways that would make Gumby blush.
The numbers prove it. He has delivered a league-best five touchdowns on targets with under a 30 percent completion probability this season, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. The touchdown catch vs. the Bills, where he used toe-drag swag with his right toenail, ranks as the most statistically unlikely catch (3.2 percent) in the Next Gen Stats era.
His latest gem sealed last Sunday’s win. With Wilson given “35 seconds to throw,” Sutton found a lane and chugged down the right sideline. Wilson let it eat, firing the ball 57 yards in the air and 46 yards from the line of scrimmage. As Chargers cornerback Michael Davis draped on him and pulled down his left arm, Sutton, whose hands measure 9 3/4 inches, hauled in the reception with his right as if it was always supposed to happen this way.
“That ain’t nothing new. That’s what he does day in and day out,” receiver Jerry Jeudy of Sutton, who is tied for second in NFL receiving scores behind Miami’s Tyreek Hill (12). “I am not surprised to see him making that catch because I always see him doing that.”
This Saturday night offers another opportunity at Detroit, a game that will be on Denver7. Sutton matches up with a Lions defense that allows 226.6 yards (19th) and has only 28 sacks, ranking 25th.
Give Wilson time, and it seems like a matter of time before he will find Sutton.
“There’s more to come,” Sutton said.