With the Denver Broncos officially opening up training camp on Wednesday, optimism has returned to the Mile High City. Despite an ongoing quarterback competition between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, there are a few pundits across the league that believe this team is talented enough to possibly sneak into the playoff race.
Part of the optimism surrounding the Broncos is the plethora of young offensive skill-position players, namely second-year wideouts Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, both of whom are expected to become viable threats in this offense.
Jeudy showed out early this offseason, which only continued on Day 1 of training camp, displaying a knack and affinity for playing with the aforementioned Bridgewater. Jeudy has been widely projected to become a breakout player this season, and thus far, he has fit the bill of that narrative.
But Wednesday was all about Hamler, the former second-round selection out of Penn State. The speedster was all over the field in Wednesday's practice, catching passes from all three quarterbacks on the roster and scoring a touchdown in red-zone drills.
Hamler flashed his elite-level speed frequently and was seemingly unguardable throughout practice. This is great news for the Broncos and for Hamler, who failed to really take off last season while dealing with a hamstring issue that he suffered training for the 2020 NFL Combine.
That lingering injury sapped the majority of his first training camp and hampered him for the majority of his rookie season. Fans were concerned when the Broncos pulled him off the practice field late on Day 1 of camp but it seems like it was a precautionary move due to cramping.
“We took him out there at some point at the end," Fangio said following Wednesday's practice. "He just got a little tightness, nothing to worry [about]—a cramp, I believe. But other than that, fine.”
Despite being taken off the field late during Wednesday's practice, Hamler is healthy and extremely excited to be back on the field and making explosive plays.
“It felt real good just getting back into the groove,” Hamler told Sydney Jones of the team website following practice. “I had some slight mistakes. All fixable. Just trying to go out there and showcase my talents. It just feels good to be back with my team and back with the guys.It felt good, you know. Just to see that I still got it a little bit. I know stuff’s going to start ramping up and cranking up. I just have to stay up on my hydration so hamstring problems won’t be a problem for me this year.”
If Hamler can stay healthy, this Broncos offense should get things cranked up and rolling especially if the quarterback output rises closer to league average. With Hamler, Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and a healthy Courtland Sutton at the receiver position and tight end Noah Fant poised to take a big step in his third year as a pro, there should be little excuse for the Broncos to not improve drastically from the bottom of the league.
Speaking of Sutton, Hamler had high praise for his veteran teammate who is coming off of a torn ACL that prematurely ended his 2020 season.
“Man, Court looks good. Court looks amazing,” Hamler told Jones. “I always pick on him like ‘When are you going to get out of that knee brace?’ because I went through the same stuff with my ACL and I know that knee brace can be a nag. But it didn’t bother him. He looks so fluent just like he never left. So I’m glad Court is back out there. I’m glad we’re all back out there healthy.”
Being healthy is a key for this young group of pass-catchers. Despite Jeudy, Hamler, and Patrick playing the majority of the season, they were all banged up at some point last year. Hamler and Patrick battled through hamstring injuries, while Jeudy fought through shoulder, rib, and foot injuries over the course of the season.
Though it’s hard to place a lot of expectations upon rookies going into their first season as a pro, adding injury woes into the equation can really hamper a player's effectiveness. It’s hard to argue that Hamler’s hamstring didn't bother him badly enough that he wasn’t, or couldn’t, be utilized to his full potential in the offense.
Now that he’s healthy, what expectations does Hamler have for himself in his sophomore season?
“I have a lot of personal goals for myself,” Hamler said. “Everybody wants to be a Pro Bowler. Everybody wants to do this and do that. But as long as the team is winning, as long as I can contribute to the team just for us to be in 17-plus games and us be in the Super Bowl, that’s all that matters to me. The rest of the accolades will come later.”
In order for Hamler to contribute to a winner and get this team back to the playoffs, he understands what is the most important thing for him to accomplish this season. Becoming a professional.
“I think the most important thing for me is having a routine and being a pro. Just understanding what I need to be doing before practice, after practice, what I need to be eating. How much I need to be drinking and hydrating. Stuff like that.”
Fans hope to see Hamler back out on the grass on Thursday in proof that it was only a cramp and not a setback in what was a severe and lingering hamstring injury last year.
Follow Lance on Twitter @SandersonMHH.
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