has developed a new -- and surprising -- nose for the end zone. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
It may be an outlier, but it's safe to say that things are going pretty well for San Diego Chargers receiver Eddie Royal in the offense constructed by new head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Through the first two games of the 2013 season, Royal has five receiving touchdowns -- which matches his total in his rookie season of 2008 for the Denver Broncos, and his total number of touchdown grabs in the subsequent four seasons with the Broncos and Chargers. Royal caught two touchdown passes from Philip Rivers in the Chargers' season-opening loss to the Houston Texans, and he grabbed three more in San Diego's 33-30 Sunday win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It was great getting Eddie open," Rivers said of Royal this week, when asked about the latter's performance against the Texans, which Royal achieved despite his recent recovery from a bruised lung. "I know he’s fired up and the whole team is fired up to have him get going like this early in the year. We always knew he was capable of it, but with injuries last year he couldn’t get in a rhythm. But, he was big in the game and we just have to build off all the good. All the receivers made big plays in the game and we just need to build on it.”
Well, Royal certainly is. Last year's touchdown reception leader, James Jones of the Green Bay Packers, didn't get his fifth until the fifth game of the 2012 season. Against the Eagles, Royal used his speed and elusiveness in short areas -- not to mention some very passive pass defense from the Eagles -- to maintain his status as Rivers' most productive target. It's a big boost from a receiver corps that has been decimated by injuries, and a pleasant surprise from a player who started just two games for the Chargers last season. Primarily a slot receiver, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Royal has playmaking potential, but it's generally been muted -- until now.
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Royal suffered the bruised lung in mid-August, when he came down hard during practice.
“Eddie went up for a ball, caught the ball, landed on his back and felt shortness of breath," McCoy said at the time. "He had a little bit of a hard time breathing."
Now, he's having a pretty easy time with the entire NFL. Whether it's sustainable or not, we'll have to wait to see.
“He’s looked good," McCoy said of Royal on Sept. 4. "I think he feels good. It’s great to have him back. He seemed to me, to feel relieved that he’s out there. It’s always a scary deal anytime you’re carted off and taken away in an ambulance, so for him to be back is good. He obviously can speak for himself, but what I’ve seen, he’s done well.”
That's an understatement. Royal signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract in March 2012, and there was some talk of the Chargers saving cap space by releasing him after a season in which he caught just 23 passes for 234 yards and one touchdown. In two games this season, he has 10 catches for 114 yards and those five scores.