ARVADA, Colo. — Jerry Jeudy stood a few yards from the end zone at Arvada West High School on a blistering afternoon. It did not mock him. It inspired him.
After failing to produce a touchdown in 10 games last season — he shares only a fraction of the blame after being targeted three times in the red zone — Jeudy embraces the challenge of silencing critics.
"I don't have a celebration yet, but I can't wait to get in there, for real. I feel good. I know this system is a good system for me to be put in the best possible position to be successful," Jeudy said. "We have a great quarterback, great teammates. I feel like it’s going to be exciting."
Nothing is like it was before. And that's a good thing. The Broncos offense smelled like a rat sleeping in a wool sock last season. Those days are over. Russell Wilson is now the face and future of the franchise.
It should amplify Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick — who has been Denver's most reliable target the past two seasons — and K.J. Hamler.
The Broncos are in no mood for a painful transition with a new coach (Nathaniel Hackett) and new quarterback.
Who wants to watch the corn grow when you can throw it in the microwave and see it pop? That is essentially what Wilson did this week by hosting Broncos receivers, tight ends, backup quarterbacks and friends to his San Diego compound for this second time this offseason.
And this time he taught an upper division class over four days.
"We had the playbook and all the players there and stuff. We were just getting that chemistry together and building that camaraderie. I feel like our group is close. It was just about hanging out with all the guys, talking football and playing the game," Jeudy said. "Russell was laid back and chill a little bit, but once he’s on that field he has a different switch. He's focused. It’s a learning lesson at that point, picking his brain and him trying to pick our brain, talking about what we see on the field and what he sees on the field."
Wilson would do himself a favor by not looking at the Broncos' receiving numbers last season. In my latest Denver7 storylines piece before training camp opens on Wednesday, I look at the significant improvement required by the receiving corps.
First, the sobering numbers. The Broncos averaged 211 yards passing per game last season, ranking 19th overall. They finished 28th with 20 receiving scores, and vertical routes became a rumor.
Yes, Jeudy had zero touchdowns. But Sutton did not score in the final 11 games and finished with two touchdowns. And Jeudy and Sutton never scored in a game where they both appeared. Patrick represented the only receiver to produce a touchdown over the final 11 games. Hamler, who is expected to begin training camp on the PUP list, had five catches in three games before suffering a season-ending injury that required surgery on his hip and knee.
Wilson arrives in Denver with scrutiny, and perhaps no quarterback is under more pressure to deliver after he orchestrated his exit from Seattle. Some jilted Seahawks fans insist Wilson remains a declining player. Broncos fans see a quarterback who ranks among the game's elite — top 10 by any measure — and posted a four-to-1 touchdown (25) to interception ratio (six) a year ago.
Since 2016, Wilson has 71 more touchdowns, 2,213 more yards and 37 fewer interceptions than the Broncos' quarterbacks, among them 11 different starters. Did I mention that Wilson has also run for 2,259 yards and 11 touchdowns during this time and caught a score? And no one has been better at throwing the deep ball than Wilson.
But let's be fair — and real. The Broncos receivers need to turn potential into production. Using Pro Football Focus' rankings as a guide, it reveals the work they have to do. Seattle's Tyler Lockett (12th out of 115 qualifers) and D.K. Metcalf (14th) ranked among the game's best last season. Sutton (45th), Patrick (45th) and Jeudy (56th) did not.
They need better. The receivers know it. They were not happy with how last season unfolded. Sutton slumped to 25 catches over the final 11 games. Jeudy did not catch more than six passes in a single game. The Broncos were bad and boring through the air.
Everything feels different. Now, it's up to this talented group to prove it.
"I can't wait for camp. I can't wait to get back to playing football," Jeudy said. "This is what I do. This is what I love doing. This is where I have my most joyful moments."