In the wake of Courtland Sutton's early-season injury, all eyes turned to rookie first-round wideout Jerry Jeudy to carry the receiving load for the Denver Broncos. While Jeudy would finish as the wide receiver corps' leader in receptions (52) and yards (856), he was out-paced in touchdown receptions by Tim Patrick.
In fact, Patrick narrowly missed out on tying Jeudy for the lead in receptions with 51 on the season. However, despite Patrick's 742 receiving yards falling more than 100 shy of Jeudy's, the veteran was a significantly more efficient and reliable target.
Patrick was targeted 79 times, catching 51 (64.6%) while Jeudy was targeted a whopping 113 times, catching 52 (46.0%). Besides tight end Noah Fant, who caught 62 of his 93 targets (66.7%) for 673 yards and three scores, Patrick enjoyed arguably the surest bond with quarterback Drew Lock.
Patrick's chemistry with Lock was palpable in 2020 and in fairness to Jeudy, was built on a year of experience catching passes from him. If anyone knows Lock in the Broncos' receiver room, it's Patrick.
The restricted free-agent recently spoke to 9NEWS' Mike Klis where he shared some intriguing behind-the-scenes insights on Lock and how the 2021 QB rumor mill tying the Broncos to nearly every available signal-caller has lit a fire beneath No. 3.
"I love Drew," Patrick told Klis. "Going forward I think he understands what he needs to do. And he understands it doesn’t have anything to do with his football skills. And it’s good to see. I’ve been in Denver for a couple weeks and his approach to the game has been 100 percent different than it was during the season. He’s one of the first guys in the building. One of the last guys to leave. He’s doing the small things to be a great player in this league. And understanding what you’re not good at and getting it up to where your talent is.
"I think he understands it. I think this talk about bringing in other quarterbacks has motivated him. And I think he should have a big season this year."
Patrick isn't the only Bronco talking about Lock's daily presence at UCHealth Training Center, as GM George Paton tipped his cap to the QB's efforts last week, saying, "I’ve spoken with Drew. I see him every day. He’s here early and he’s working. He really wants to be great."
Patrick's insight that this offseason version of Lock being "100 percent different" than it was last fall is eyebrow-raising and perhaps even a little alarming. At worst, it implies that Lock wasn't going all-out last season in terms of dedication and commitment to his craft.
But losing his most ardent supporter in the building in John Elway, only to see Paton very publicly pursue veteran QBs on the market, obviously had an effect on Lock's intensity. Perhaps that's not what Patrick meant to imply but now that it's been said, it's hard to infer anything but that.
At best, Patrick's remarks about Lock recognizing that mastering the "small things", whether it be film study, the playbook, footwork, or throwing mechanics, are encouraging. Entering Year 3, it's better that Lock has that epiphany now than get to the football season this fall and continue to flounder, if not sink further into regression.
Patrick closing by acknowledging that all the QB talk, from Matthew Stafford, to Deshaun Watson, to every signal-caller in the 2021 draft class not-named Trevor Lawrence, is galvanizing Lock. I've often mused on this very issue on the Huddle Up Podcast.
Will Paton's pursuit of outside QBs, whether the GM succeeds in landing one or not, having a motivating, net-positive effect on Lock, or will it lead to the young gunslinger unraveling and imploding? Patrick's remarks, at least impart, serve as an optimistic harbinger that it's the former.
We won't know for sure until and unless we see Lock under center again as the Broncos' starter when the 2021 NFL season rolls around. In the meantime, Lock will keep his nose to the grindstone, working in tandem with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and QBs coach Mike Shula, no doubt, to further assimilate the playbook that the coaching duo was unable to fully install last year due to the pandemic.
As for Patrick, Paton's plan is to tender him as an RFA. That means he's guaranteed to be back in Denver again in 2021, unless the Broncos were to tender and then trade him away, which is unlikely but possible.
Paton called Patrick a "good football player" whom the Broncos "look forward to being here in the future."
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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