ENGLEWOOD — A proven quarterback offers Jerry Jeudy an opportunity to prove himself.
Entering his third season, the Broncos receiver aims to live up to his first-round billing. Talent has never been a question with the former Alabama star. Rookie drops, scheme fit and health, however, have undermined his production.
As the Broncos tiptoe towards their most highly anticipated season since 2015, Jeudy needs to play a significant role in the rebound. With Russell Wilson now leading the offense and setting the tone at practice and in the building, Jeudy possesses an E-470 path to success.
"He could help me a lot. He’s a great quarterback — a Hall of Fame quarterback that came to the offense as a leader. [He’s] getting me better as well. He’s going to help me a lot this year," Jeudy said. "Just the energy. He’s always uplifting guys and always motivating guys to go out there and keep working hard. On the off days when you don’t feel like working or doing anything, he’s the guy that comes up and gets your mind right for it. That’s a great guy to be around.”
It remains impossible to overstate how disappointing Jeudy's 2021 was. He shone in OTAs, starred in training camp, distinguishing himself as the Broncos' best offensive player, while developing chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater. He caught six passes for 72 yards in the season opener at the Giants before suffering a high right ankle sprain — there was fear of a fracture —on an awkward tackle.
Jeudy missed six games — "I was good to go when I came back," he said — and never regained traction due to a confluence of factors. The Broncos offense did not do anything particular well other than take care of the football. With Bridgewater and Drew Lock reluctant to take chances, Jeudy became a decoy, an indictment of previous coordinator Pat Shurmur, who used the speedy playmaker endlessly on fake jet sweep motion plays that fooled absolutely no one.
Worse, Jeudy finished with three red zone targets and zero touchdowns in 10 games. His two-year average shakes heads: 45 catches, 662 yards, 1 TD. Jeudy bears some responsibility.
"There are things you can control and things you can’t control. Those first two years are gone now, so I’m just focused on this year," said Jeudy, who became a father this offseason.
The reality is the ability — and it's still there. There's no reason Jeudy cannot flourish in a new system with offensive-driven coach Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett has promised to return vertical strikes to the offense, while finding a way to feed everyone.
"Hackett is a really cool dude. I like the energy he brings to the facility every day. He’s always joking around and always playing around. He always has fun with the game," said Jeudy, who spent time working with Wilson in San Diego. "That’s the type of coach I like.”
The numbers were sobering last season for the Broncos receivers. Tim Patrick delivered the group's only touchdown over the final eight games. Courtland Sutton caught 20 passes over the last 10 games and Sutton and Jeudy never found a way to excel when on the field together.
Wilson holds the key as nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion. Couple that with Hackett's open mind, and no reasons remain for underwhelming numbers.
"Yeah, I have some type of goals, but only for me to look at," Jeudy said.
If the Broncos blossom as expected, it will be easy for everyone to see.