Tim Patrick Imparts Confidence in Broncos' WRs Corps Sans Sutton
Wide receiver Tim Patrick has been with the Denver Broncos organization since 2017. He's seen head-coaching regimes come and go.
Patrick has also witnessed a changing of the guard at the Broncos' wide receiver position. Patrick was there to see the torch get passed from Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to Courtland Sutton, and to himself.
Now, with Sutton headed to injured reserve for the season with a torn ACL, Patrick doesn't seem to share in the panic over the decreasing talent at the wide receiver position. Of course, he considers himself to be a big reason for that but Patrick knows what the Broncos have in rookies Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.
Adding insult to Sutton's injury, the Broncos have lost starting quarterback Drew Lock for the next 2-6 weeks with a shoulder injury. Perhaps presciently, the team invested heavily in the wide receiver position during the offseason with the express purpose of building around Lock.
With Lock out of the picture for the foreseeable future, those first- and second-round investments are about to pay dividends.
“When we drafted all those guys, we felt like we had one of the most talented receiving cores from top to bottom in the league," Patrick said on Tuesday. "With Courtland going down, it truly is that next man up mentality. Jerry Jeudy is going to get more targets. [WR] DaeSean [Hamilton]’s going to get more targets. KJ’s going to get more targets. Tyrie [Cleveland] is probably going to get more involved. Of course, I’m going to get more targets."
It wasn't just Jeudy and Hamler in the first and second round, respectively, the Broncos also went for the wideout trifecta in the draft, spending a seventh-round pick on Florida's raw but talented Tyrie Cleveland. Going into 2020, the Broncos had an embarrassment of riches at receiver, so much so that the team actually carried seven on the 53-man roster. That foresight has turned out to be wise.
"We talked about it all camp that we have one of the best receiver corps," Patrick said. "We’re prepared for this. It sucks that he had to go down, but like [ILB] Josey [Jewell] said, it’s next man up.”
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Fans saw last week the Broncos battle back with backup QB Jeff Driskel to take the Pittsburgh Steelers all the way down to the wire, ultimately falling 26-21. The most glowing view of Driskel's wherewithal as a QB is that of a stop-gap but he was able to make it into the Broncos' record books, passing for over 250 yards and two touchdowns because of the array of talent around him.
Patrick himself is Sutton-lite type of X-receiver. At 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, he can contend outside the numbers and use his big body and length to box out defenders and go up and get the ball. But as respectable as his scouting report is and his NFL resume, he went undrafted out of Utah for a reason.
Driskel was able to contend with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger because of the impact of Jeudy, Hamler, and tight end Noah Fant. However, it's going to be interesting to see whether Patrick himself can blossom outside Sutton's shadow.
Make no mistake, though, Jeudy and Hamler are the reason fans shouldn't panic about Sutton's injury. Even Patrick knows that.
“That we have some really good rookies—you guys see what Jerry Jeudy has been doing since camp started," Patrick said. "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. Those guys have been stepping up, and they’re going to continue to step up.”
Patrick doesn't know what his role is going to be in the Broncos' new-fangled offense with Driskel at the helm. But he's liked what he's seen from the team's sudden starting quarterback. Patrick appreciated how Driskel was able to step in cold and produce in relief of Lock.
“I think he did well," Patrick said of Driskel. "You have to think about it. He didn’t get any—the past two weeks, he hasn’t gotten any reps. He came into the game and gave us a chance to win the game. We were really just one play away from winning that game. I know that we say that a lot, but we literally were at the 15-yard line on fourth and two, driving in the score. We just didn’t make that one play.”
So what's it going to take for this team to make that one extra play that spells the difference between triumph and defeat? It comes down to what's between the ears of this squad collectively and that team heart pumping inside the Orange and Blue jersey and chest plate.
“It’s all mental. Football never changes," Patrick said. "You’ve played this game your who life and it doesn’t really change. I feel like it gets mentally harder at each level you’re at. That’s just one of those hurdles that you need to get over. We’re right there every single game, and honestly, I’m getting tired of saying it. We have to go in with the mentality of, ‘[forget] all that. We’re going to win this next game.’ No matter how it happens, we just need to win.”
Easier said than done, surely, but it should inspire a modicum of confidence in Broncos Country that this team has been competitive in each of its first two games, going against playoff-caliber opponents without many of its best players. That mental resolve and on-point execution in critical moments is the only gap left to be bridged, with or without the likes of Lock, Sutton, Von Miller, and Phillip Lindsay.
Through two games, Patrick has hauled in six receptions on 10 targets for 53 yards. He's going to have to step up and be that force for Driskel outside the numbers, and disincentivize opponents from bracketing Fant and Jeudy.
Between Patrick and Hamler, Driskel will have no shortage of weapons. Win or lose, it's going to be fun to see how this young offense comes together amid extreme adversity. The season is young. And it's the NFL. Until the Broncos get eliminated from the playoffs, they're still in it.
Stranger things have happened. Even to the Broncos organization.