The man with a thousand nicknames really needs no introduction, but I will try.
- 7th in the NFL in receptions with 91, 1st among rookies
- 1st among rookies with 980 receiving yards
- 16th in the NFL with 65 receiving yards per game, 1st among rookies
- 10.8 yards per reception
- 47.3% of his receptions were for 1st downs or Touchdowns, and he had 5 touchdowns on the year
- Set Broncos rookie records for receptions, yards, receiving touchdowns and receptions in a game (11).
- Amassed 1,829 total yards, ranking 6th in the league and 1st among rookies
- Named NFL Rookie of the Week twice, Week 1 at Oakland, Week 10 at Cleveland.
|Receiving||Kickoff Returns||Punt Returns|
In short, Royal may have been the most consistent, most electric, and most significant offensive weapon to step in as a rookie since 1985.
It all started with Monday Night Football in Oakland, where Royal was the first rookie WR to start since Vance Johnson.
It ended with Eddie tallying the most receiving yards (146) and the fourth-most receptions (9) of any NFL player in Week 1, achieving the highest number of receptions by a Broncos rookie debut and the 6th most receptions by any rookie's league-wide debut. It also ended with a convincing and much needed road-opener win against a divisional foe, and the complete and utter dismantling of over-hyped Pro Bowl corner DeAngelo Hall. Hall would soon be cut by the Raiders, and he may have no one to thank more than Eddie Royal, #19.
What Eddie showed that night was more than flash, though. He wasn't the recipient of a few mystery plays, or of a chance long bomb, or of poor defensive effort. Eddie's routes were crisp, his jukes and fakes were veteran, and more than anything his head was in the game. He was part of a long, sustained, relentless attack that came from anywhere on the field, including the return game, pressured the weak spots in the defense and put up points. It wasn't all Eddie, but as a rookie starter who had most people saying "Who?", neither the game nor the moment were too big for him.
Fast-forward to the next week and with the game on the line, Royal matched his game smarts and consistency with the ultimate in clutch play, first by catching the game tying score with 24 seconds left to play, and secondly by catching the game-winning two-point conversion to salt the W away.
Eddie wouldn't look back.
By the end of the season Eddie was entrenched in the Broncos' record books. Here was a player who was mature, confident, and productive, a star in the making and a proven human being. He had caught the fans' imaginations as well, and hearing "Royal for Rookie for the Year" wasn't uncommon as the season wound down.
In the negativity that surrounded the end of the season, though, as Shanahan's team was dashed on the rocks of desperation, the penumbra that surrounded Eddie began to fade. A forced fumble helped seal our fate in one loss. He began to suffer from nicks and bruises, only able to score long TDs of 93 and 56 yds. A 71-yard run was forgotten amongst the clamor that it should have come from a RB. He even dropped a pass in the final, last-chance, critical must-win game against the Chargers.
And strangely, that is where the story left off. The player to whom Cutler had a 71% completion percentage throughout the season, the player who had amazing agility to catch outside his frame, to catch high, to catch low, the rookie who could track the over the shoulder ball or find the ball in the corner of the end-zone with a veteran's eye, was remembered for a drop. Our final image is one of Cutler harshly chastising Royal, of opportunities lost, of plays not made.
But know that it is a myth, not a memory. In a season full of frustration, the final moments, from RBs with no future to WRs who dropped too many passes, everything became symbols, symbols of a frustration too large to sum up in a day's worth of thoughts. Almost all of those symbols are gone now: fired, cut, released. It hasn't been hard to let them go.
Forget the myth.
Enjoy the memories.
*I think that is Xanders on the sideline at 1:09... :)