During the 17-game natural disaster that was the 2022 Denver Broncos regular season, it was difficult for most onlookers to keep their eyes open long enough to find anything positive, but rookie tight end Greg Dulcich is someone who managed to shine some light through the destruction.
Appearing in 10 games in 2022, Dulcich quickly established himself as a difference maker in the passing game, pulling in 55 catches for 411 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but with new sheriff Sean Payton now in town, everyone is starting with a blank slate.
The promising rookie from a year ago, however, has made it impossible due to his performance through OTAs so far for Payton to ignore him.
In fact, Payton, who has been Belichick-ian if not downright Marshawn Lynch-ian when discussing his team with the media, went out of his way to serve up praise for the second year man out of UCLA.
Case in point: as highlighted by Sayre Bedinger of Predominantly Orange, when asked about Dulcich back in January, Payton responded with a mostly generic, somewhat unpleasant tone short enough to fit on a post-it note.
“We’ll see (on Dulcich),” he said. “We haven’t gone through every player relative to the evaluation process. Some of it was hard (the evaluation). Some of it was hard.”
Fast forward six months later, and with Payton having been able to get a closer look at his tight end, he now has a little more to say.
“Look, he’s got a unique skill set and has traits in the passing game,” he said following Thursday’s practice. “We use a term ‘joker’ where we can get matchups, and the trick sometimes is to predict what you’re going to get defensively, if you’re going to get a nickel or a base package, but man, he can run. He’s got good ball skills.”
Compared to how he’s discussed his team and/or individual players since he’s arrived, this might as well be a DJ Khaled hype track. Payton would further elaborate on the “joker” position while likening it to what he’s done with a very decorated group of other tight ends (and running backs).
“I think his menu is going to be lengthy in the passing game,” he continued. “I’ve been lucky enough to have had (Jeremy) Shockey, (Jason) Witten, Jimmy Graham, and I’m probably leaving out a few, but he’s got traits that are exciting. The joker player is not a receiver, it’s either a running back or tight end with exceptional ball skills, and then you can work matchups. Reggie Bush was a joker, as was Darren Sproles and Alvin Kamara. Those were all unique players not just in the running game, but they had passing game skill sets that allowed you to do multiple things. I think Greg does, too.”
So in six months, Payton has gone from indifferent if not a tad pessimistic to mentioning his new tight end in the same breath as some of his most productive players.
Broncos Country has been scorned by the hype train as much, if not more, than any other fan base in recent seasons, but when a coach with a Hall-of-Fame resume and a Super Bowl ring starts hyping his players like this, it certainly is worth a tiny bit of optimism.
If the rest of the offensive playmakers can generate anything close to the comments like this from Payton, the opportunity for a significant uptick in production may be less of a pipe dream than once thought.
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