ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It might seem like an odd premise in a week after no Denver Broncos wide receiver caught a pass, but the team has been pleased of late with the arc of improvement from rookie receiver KJ Hamler.
Before the Broncos were without their entire quarterback depth chart because of broken protocols for COVID-19 on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, Hamler had seen 26 targets over a three-game span.
And one of the reasons why, at least according to Hamler, is he is ready, willing, able and well stocked with pens to write down anything and everything as many times as he has to. Whether it's in the ever-present notebook in his hand or on a whiteboard at his house.
Hamler said he learns best when he writes things down over and over again.
"Basically I have a call sheet and I go down every play from top to bottom -- it doesn't matter how many plays it is. ... I try to know as much about the offense as possible so it makes me understand it and I can play faster," Hamler said. "What the O-line's doing, why are they doing this, why I have to tempo this route or why I have to get over there fast -- just the little stuff like that to just help the game within the game. It really helps. Like I said, I'm a hands-on guy when I try to learn stuff, so I've got to write stuff down multiple times and look it over just to get the feel for it. ... From camp to now, I have the same notebooks. I'm not going to throw those away."
Hamler -- taken in the second round -- was the second of three wide receivers the Broncos selected in the April draft. First-round pick Jerry Jeudy got most of the attention early, and seventh-round pick Tyrie Cleveland surprised many when he battled his way onto the roster.
Hamler's season started quietly as he wrestled with a hamstring injury. He reinjured it in October and went 28 days between receptions. But beginning in Week 7, during the first meeting against the Kansas City Chiefs, Hamler put together a string of solid games, including a game-winning touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 8 and a season-best six catches for 75 yards during a Week 9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. His third-down catch early in the game against the Miami Dolphins two weeks later seemed to give the team the kick-start in an eventual victory.
"Those are the things we should and could see more and more of from him," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. "You have to remember all the time he's missed, but he's one of those guys that I keep saying is improving daily and getting better and better."
On the season, the rookie has 25 catches for 275 yards and a touchdown, but 66% of his targets came during a three-game span between Weeks 9 and 11.
"If you think about that guy, he got hurt, he didn't get to do a lot in training camp, he got hurt in the beginning of the year, comes into that Pittsburgh game ready to go, gets kind of banged up again -- then he finally gets to start practicing and get some mojo behind him," quarterback Drew Lock said. "I think that's just what we're seeing from him right now. He's always been the competitor that he is and I think we're just going to see him open up more and more as the weeks go on."
The Broncos, who face the Chiefs again Sunday night (5:20 p.m. ET), would eventually like Hamler to offer a slice of what Kansas City has in Tyreek Hill, who lines up all over the formation.
Hamler was one of the fastest players in April's draft -- he didn't run at the NFL scouting combine because of a hamstring injury -- and he had more than 3,000 all-purpose yards at Penn State, with 33 career receptions of 20 or more yards.
"I think it's growing each week," Hamler said. "I think all of us receivers -- I know I talk to Drew a lot like, ‘What'd you see on that play? What'd you see on this play? Why'd you do this? Why'd you do that?' I like to pick everybody's brain. Drew is the leader of the offense, so we have to make him feel comfortable back there as a receiver group."