EAST RUTHERFORD - The Meadowlands injury bug continued into the 2021 opening Sunday of the NFL season, when the Denver Broncos suffered two devastating blows, with second year wide reciever Jerry Jeudy, and offseason addition in Ronald Darby both finding themselves on the IR after the first outing in New Jersey.
The injury curse from last year seems to have not let up unfortunatley and quite frankly it dampened the mood after a positve start to the season.
While Patrick Surtain is primed to step up into Darby's role at cornerback, next man up at wide reciever seems to be the man drafted in the following round after Jeudy, KJ Hamler.
While his rookie year was plagued with some injuries and drops, he's shown flashes of why the Broncos drafted him in the second round, even after picking Jeudy in the first and already having Courtland Sutton in their ranks, who was coming off a breakout year. The game that first comes to mind is against his new Quarterback's old team, the Carolina Panthers, where he went for 2-86-2.
However, now is the time Hamler needs to be more than the deep threat that he is known for. While stretching the field is important, guys like Sutton and Tim Patrick can fufill that role by offering a physical presence and jump ball winning ability. Hamler needs to be able to work over the middle, in Jeudy-esque way.
Bridgewater has already shown a tendency (which comes as no surprise to anyone) to prefer working over the middle and the short to intermediate passing game rather than airing it out wide and deep. Jeudy and Fant, who also is going to be working over the middle alongside Hamler in the current weeks, combined 15 targets, 12 catches, and 134 yards against a pretty highly regarded Giants secondary.
Hamler himself could have had a strong outing, had he not dropped the only legitamate deep pass that comes to mind this past Sunday, instead only finishing with 3-41, however all 3 catches resulted in Broncos first downs.
While Tim Patrick, Noah Fant will get theirs, and certainly Courtland Sutton who I think will get back on track after a quiet opener, KJ Hamler, could be in line for a career day against a pourous Jaguars defense, however he has to prove he can get open over the middle and not rely on his strength as the deep ball guy, while also making sure he secures the catch.
Would love to hear thoughts or questions in the comments, or on my twitter @tomfahey_