What a disastrous Week 2 it was for the Denver Broncos.
Not only did they lose in heartbreaking fashion to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver also lost their starting quarterback and starting, superstar wide receiver in Courtland Sutton.
Drew Lock’s injury may be more noteworthy, but Sutton’s torn ACL is nearly as important as the second-year QB’s hurt shoulder. While many hope Lock will become “the guy” he’s also injured himself in each of his first two seasons by falling on his throwing arm.
There’s no guarantee that Lock will ever become a star in this league, even if he has all the physical traits to do so. Meanwhile, Sutton is a bonafide superstar already, seeing his third season cut far too short.
After a solid rookie campaign (42 receptions, 702 yards, 4 TDs) Sutton broke out as a star last season, topping the 1,000-yard mark (1,112 yards). And while he was dominant at times, there’s still hope he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet.
But without Sutton in Week 1, the Broncos were lacking in that physical, go-up-and-get it receiver. And now they will miss out on that dimension of their passing game the rest of the season.
So, in steps Tim Patrick — who elevated his game in the back half of 2019 and deserved a starting role this year — as well as touted rookies Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.
Patrick has been relatively quiet so far this year, with six receptions for 53 yards. Of course, he’ll have to turn it up a notch going forward as the No. 1 receiver.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Patrick said when asked if he thinks his role will increase. “I just plan on working hard and when my number is called, make the play and make as many plays to help my team win.”
Realistically, it will be nearly impossible to fill Sutton’s shoes this year. Luckily, Patrick won’t be alone.
In Week 1’s loss to the Titans, we saw No. 1 pick Jeudy flash here and there. Although, he also looked like a rookie with multiple drops and a fumble. Jeudy bounced back in Week 2 and there was Hamler impressing for the first time with the Broncos. Together, they enjoyed seven receptions for 102 yards in two weeks.
Jeudy has displayed fantastic route-running throughout camp, continuing to prove why he was the consensus best receiver in the NFL draft this year. Hamler showed of great speed and quickness in Week 2, and if he somehow hauled in that deep ball from Jeff Driskel, it would’ve been a huge boost to his confidence.
Along the way, they impressed third-year receiver Patrick.
“That we have some really good rookies—you guys see what Jerry Jeudy has been doing since camp started,” Patrick said on Tuesday at Dove Valley. “The man is amazing at running routes. KJ stuck out on this game film as physical, being our smallest receiver but was probably one of our most physical receivers this game and making plays on the back like [Steelers CB] Joe Haden.
“You can’t ask much more from those guys,” he continued. “Those guys have been stepping up, and they’re going to continue to step up.”
It’s true; if there were one positive to Sutton getting injured it’s the rookies will get more targets and more chances to acclimate to the NFL in a hurry. In the long run, that will benefit Denver as an offense and Hamler likely has the most to gain personally from the increased reps.
Of course, it would be even more beneficial if Lock were the one throwing them the ball, but that won’t likely happen until after Denver’s bye week, Week 9.
On Tuesday, the Broncos signed Blake Bortles as a fill-in for Lock. Apparently backup Jeff Driskel’s decent game (18-34, 256 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) wasn’t enough to earn him a start going forward.
And speaking of quarterbacks, 0-2 Denver hosts 1-1 Tampa Bay and ageless wonder Tom Brady this Sunday.