by Shawn Drotar (@sdrotar)
In what seemed like an instant, rookie wide receiver Courtland Sutton went from the Broncos’ No. 3 wide receiver to the top spot following the trade of Demaryius Thomas and the season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury to Emmanuel Sanders.
On Wednesday, Sutton joined Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro of Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 to talk about his whirlwind season, and what challenges await him as the Broncos’ top target.
Sutton now squares off against opponents’ top cornerbacks — something he didn’t have to do earlier in the season. But the rookie from SMU isn’t fazed. “Definitely not,” Sutton said. “I prepare myself as if I’m going against a No. 1 corner every week. We haven’t played against too many teams that ‘travel’ corners; a lot of the time, you get matched against the No. 1 corner.”
A decade ago, top cover corners “travelled”; following their assigned man to either side of the field and shadowing their every move. Nowadays, even Pro Bowlers like the 49ers’ Richard Sherman stay on one side of the field, simply covering whichever receiver lines up on that side.
“I was matched up against Richard Sherman a couple of times last week, and I love that challenge,” Sutton said. “He’s someone I grew up watching him play at a higher level, grew up wishing I could go against him, and I got a chance [on Sunday]. Those opportunities — for guys like myself and other rookies — when you get to go up against [the best]… you look forward to those opportunities. I look forward to it every week.”
Sherman is renowned as a trash-talker, and Sutton confirmed it. But he wasn’t interested in trading verbal barbs. “He is, but I don’t talk. You don’t get a lot out of me on the field,” Sutton said. “I let my game play talk.”
Sutton’s 30 catches are good for fourth on the Broncos, but none the three men ahead of him — Sanders (71), Thomas (36) and tight end Jeff Heuerman (31) — are left standing. Because of that, he’s facing double-teams now, something that didn’t happen earlier in the season. “Certain downs and distances,” Sutton explained. “Teams study just like we study. They watch, and know that I’m a vertical threat. Most corners can’t guard me on-on-one, no matter how tall they are, no matter how many years they’ve been in the league, no matter… Pro Bowl, whatever they are, there’s not too many corners that can guard me one-on-one — especially on vertical [routes]. Defenses know that.”
The numbers back him up. Sutton’s 572 receiving yards are second-best on the team, but his whopping 19.1 yards per catch leads it… by nearly seven yards per catch.
“They get the safety up, and corners probably would sit there and tell you, ‘Oh, I can guard him one-on-one by myself,’ but if we do ten reps, I’m catching at least eight of them, for sure.”
When asked about why the Broncos haven’t taken advantage of Sutton’s deep skills — quarterback Case Keenum’s miniscule 6.9 yards-per-attempt average ranks 26th in the NFL — the rookie wisely demurred.
“Trick question,” he said with a laugh. “That’s above my pay grade. I run the plays that are called, and that’s that. I don’t control the playcalls; whatever the coach calls, that’s what he feels like is best for that situation we’re in [at that point] in the game. I’m not the offensive coordinator. If I was the offensive coordinator, we’d probably lose a lot of games.”
Click here to listen to the full interview with Courtland Sutton, including more of what he had to say about offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, quarterback Case Keenum, Sherman’s “edge” and his potential matchup with fellow rookie Denzel Ward of the Browns and more, or listen to the podcast below.
Catch Afternoon Drive with Goodman and Shapiro every weekday from 4p-6p on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best local coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s biggest sports talk lineup. Download the all-new free Mile High Sports Radio mobile app for Apple or Android.