We’re a couple practices into training camp and one of the key storylines so far is how Jerry Jeudy is as good as advertised. The very early returns from he and KJ Hamler, seem to be extremely positive and both can significantly help this offense.
Jerry Jeudy getting more first-team action today. He gets himself so open that you would think defensive backs are following social distancing protocols during practice.— Nick Kosmider (@NickKosmider) August 16, 2020
However, with the addition of Melvin Gordon, joining Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant and Phillip Lindsay, the question arises - how much of the offense is there to go around to all of these weapons?
This is one of the topics Joe Rowles and I talked about on this week’s training camp episode of Cover 2 Broncos.
I took a look at the target distribution of Pat Shurmur’s previous stops as offensive coordinator and head coach to see what we could potentially see this season, particularly among the wide receiver target distribution.
Pat Shurmur's offenses over the last three years:— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) August 18, 2020
'17: WR1: 142 tgts, WR2: 95 tgts
'18: WR1: 124 tgts, WR2: 107 tgts
'19: WR1: 85 tgts, WR2: 84 tgts, WR3: 83 tgts.
Denver last year: WR1: 124 tgts, WR2: 52
Jerry Jeudy should stay plenty busy this year.
Right out of the gate, Shurmur’s offenses have the advantage as they favor the passing game. In 2018 and 2019, the New York Giants distributed 574 and 588 targets (respectively) over the course of the season. Compare that to Denver who had 481 total targets last year and the overall pie has already gotten bigger with Shurmur’s arrival.
Even in a more run heavy offense like Minnesota, Shurmur’s offense still had 520 overall targets.
Among those teams Shurmur coached, his offense supported two wide receivers with 90+ targets in two of the last three years, and in 2019 had three wide receivers with 80+ targets. Now, some of that was dictated by injury to the top WRs, but even just the distribution to the wide receiver position is encouraging for Jerry Jeudy’s prospects in this offense, as he figures to be the WR2 behind Courtland Sutton.
Last year, Sutton had a massive 124 targets, and had the largest share of his team’s targets in the entire league. While I don’t think we’ll see that number decrease overall by that much, I think the players around him will get more involved to provide a more well rounded target distribution.
The 2017 Vikings could be a good model. They featured two big-time wide receivers on the outside in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph at the tight end position who was heavily involved. While Thielen had just a crazy amount of targets, the fact that Diggs had nearly WR1 level targets as well, with 95, and Rudolph following up with 81 was even more impressive.
I think we could see a similar share in Denver, if not the exact numbers. We know Courtland Sutton can soak up targets and I think Noah Fant will likely improve on his 66 targets from last year. Which leaves Jeudy.
Given how ready he is to hit the ground running, I could see a scenario where Jeudy follows in the footsteps of some of the other great Alabama wide receivers and steps into 80+ targets in Denver. Julio Jones kicked off his rookie year with 91, and Amari Cooper racked up a whopping 123 targets in Oakland.
We also know that Shurmur isn’t afraid to feed a rookie wide receiver as 5th rookie Darius Slayton had 84 targets last season in New York, and the year before that Shurmur funneled 121 targets to star running back Saquon Barkley.
We’ll continue to watch the story unfold out of camp, and watch eagerly as Jeudy grows into this offense, but don’t fear there being enough to go around to feed all these offensive weapons. I imagine we’ll see an offense under Shurmur where everyone gets involved.