Last season, the Denver Broncos had to lean on first-round wide receiver Jerry Jeudy much earlier than the team anticipated. When No. 1 wideout Courtland Sutton was lost for the year in Week 2 with an ACL tear, the torch, by default, was passed to the rookie.
Jeudy coped with those expectations in a predictable up-and-down way. Although he finished the season with 52 receptions (113 targets) for 856 yards and three touchdowns, he dropped a lot (and I mean a lot) of passes.
Finishing his rookie campaign with the second-most drops among all NFL wideouts (12), Jeudy's struggles were of the between-the-ears variety. He still produced one of the most prolific rookie seasons for a wide receiver in Broncos' history but when it was all said and done, nobody was really talking about him as the darling at his position.
That went rookies like Minnesota's Justin Jefferson (who earned a Pro Bowl nod), Dallas' CeeDee Lamb, and even Pittsburgh's Chase Claypool. At the end of the day, though, Jeudy's not complaining. He gets it, which is why he's doubled his efforts to improve those drop issues.
"Oh, yeah. Of course, of course," Jeudy told Phil Milani of the team site in regards to other rookie wideouts outshining him last year. "I feel like I've got a lot to prove this year. I feel like if you put in the work, then all that work is gonna show when it's time to show. So, yeah, I'm just out here grinding."
Although Jeudy's tonality when dealing with the press last year was often combative and cagey, he was much more open and upbeat with Milani earlier this week as the Broncos held three OTA practices. The former Alabama star was happy to explain what he's been focused on and how he's looking to improve in Year 2.
"I mean, I see why because I didn't play to my standards," Jeudy told Milani. "But I understand so this year, no excuses. I'm just going to work on what I need to work on."
It's a great mindset and one that is unflinchingly honest.
"I had a lot of drops last year so that's a big emphasis that I'm doing this season," Jeudy told Milani. "After every practice, catching jugs. Just focusing on little details, like my hands. So that's mostly what I'm focusing on."
Jeudy is well-known for his work ethic around the entire NFL calendar. He doesn't shut it off after the season and keeps fans in touch with what he's working on via sensational and sometimes viral social media video clips.
Jeudy didn't get an offseason training program last year due to the pandemic. This time, he does and with a pro work ethic like that, he was champing at the bit to return to UCHealth Training Center to join his teammates, stack some reps, and go against what is shaping up to be a monster secondary. It's what he "loves" to do.
"It's very important," Jeudy said. "You want to get all the reps you can just so you can know the plays mentally and come out here and get in repetition with the quarterback, so it means a lot coming out here."
Speaking of the quarterback position, the talk of the summer is the battle shaping up between the incumbent Drew Lock and the veteran threat recently transplanted to Denver via trade in Teddy Bridgewater. So far so good, in Jeudy's estimation. The young wideout has seen the intensity at QB rise already.
"Drew and Teddy, they're both out here competing," Jeudy said. "They're both out here doing great, doing what they need to do to get better each and every day. You can see the level of competition going up high so it's good for both of them to be out here."
Because of Sutton's injury, Jeudy never really got the chance to settle in and forge that complementary partnership with the Broncos' Pro Bowl wideout. But with Sutton being ostensibly ahead of schedule in his recovery, Jeudy is already having visions of the fits the two of them will be giving defensive coordinators this fall.
"It's all great to see Courtland out here, man," Jeudy said. "Great guy especially him being on the other side of the ball is very scary, so it's going to be scary for defenses to stop him when we're 100 percent."
Perhaps one of the reasons for Jeudy's improved mood of late is the arrival of a long-time friend and college teammate in 2021 first-round cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Jeudy and Surtain grew up near each other and have been friends dating back long before their Crimson Tide tenures.
"I knew him for a little while. I knew Pat since little league," Jeudy revealed. "Pat's a little league legend, if you don't know that. Yeah, a little league legend, if you don't know that about Pat. He used to play running back. Ain't nobody—best running back in the nation at the time. But it's great just to see him grow out here and be who he became."
Milani, ever the ace interviewer, could let that comment go without asking Jeudy about Surtain's offensive propensity perhaps in the Broncos' offense. Champ Bailey famously played a few snaps on offense after then-Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan acquired him via trade back in 2004.
Could a similar fate await Surtain?
"Oh yeah. He's gonna make plays all over the field," Jeudy said with a smile. "No cap."
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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