Denver Broncos hope Russell Wilson will help turn Jerry Jeudy's potential into touchdowns

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There may be no bigger indictment of the Denver Broncos' offense last season than the number of times wide receiver Jerry Jeudy didn’t get the ball.

Over and over again, Jeudy was used in motion to fake a direct snap. And over and over again, the play was mistimed, poorly run and faked no one as the ball was routinely snapped before he arrived to the spot behind the center or long after he had since passed.

It was the weekly reminder of an inability to release the playmaker trapped inside the guy who went on to finish the 2021 season without a touchdown. And the quest to change that has been a front-burner item heading into this season.

“[Jeudy] is ready to do some things in this offense,’’ said Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton. “We see how much he puts into this, we see what he can do. And all the receivers, everybody in our room, know what it means to have [quarterback] Russell Wilson on this team. It’s going to be different for everybody.’’

"We all were a little frustrated, especially there at the end (of the season),'' said wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni. "We're moving on, the room is fresh and optimistic. ... Jerry is healthy, whole new deal, whole new mindset, whole new season for everybody.''

Wilson’s arrival in the March trade with the Seattle Seahawks has changed the landscape, and the playbook, for the Broncos. And, as Sutton said, it changed everything for every player on the roster.

Wilson’s arrival could mean the most for Jeudy. And at times, as Wilson has consistently sought Jeudy out during practices for conversations between drills, Wilson seems to know that.

Wilson called Jeudy “a bright light’’ in recent weeks and added “he’s going to have a really amazing year. He’s so confident right now. He’s playing his best football that I’ve seen. He’s really sharp, he understands every concept of what we’re trying to do and how to get there. Every route is just perfect, and he’s been really great for us.’’

But Jeudy has been a bit of a football riddle since the Broncos made him the 15th pick of the 2020 draft, perhaps the most affected by the Broncos’ struggles on offense, fueled by the procession of quarterbacks as well as what seemed like a mishmash of plays strung together without enough of a big-picture plan. Jeudy has 90 catches for 1,323 yards and three touchdowns over his two NFL seasons.

Jeudy is a gifted route-runner, with the kind speed and short-area quickness to create space against even the best cornerbacks in the league, but whether it’s been drops, a failure to find a comfort level in the offensive playbook, an injury or just the team's inability to create ways to get him the ball, his production has not matched his potential.

He turned less than 50% of his targets into receptions as a rookie and last season. After he missed seven games with an ankle injury he suffered in last-season's opener, Jeudy never really regained his momentum. He only had over 60 yards receiving in one of the last eight games.

That's something coach Nathaniel Hackett has said he wants to remedy, especially since Jeudy, Sutton and KJ Hamler will have to do more of the heavy lifting after Tim Patrick, who led the Broncos in touchdown catches last season, suffered a season-ending knee injury early in training camp.

“[Jeudy] asks great questions at coaches meetings -- he calls me out a couple of times, which is awesome,’’ Hackett said. “I love that, and that’s just going to show that he’s going to grow more and more. He’s definitely capable of doing a lot of different things.’’

Wilson said Jeudy has been a regular at the quarterback meetings as well and in the meetings for the offense as a whole. Jeudy posts up next to Wilson there as well.

"Just learning the mindset of a quarterback, understanding the reads, understanding the thought process of what they're going through,'' Jeudy said. "That's the biggest thing I took away learning how to run my routes, knowing when to speed things up, knowing when I'm able to slow things down. ... It's helped me a lot, understanding the timing of plays.''

Sutton has already shown he’s a reliable option for Wilson in practice as Wilson has consistently looked Sutton’s way when under pressure from the rush or in the two-minute or red zone situations. Hamler, who is coming off knee and hip surgery, still carries the threat of elite speed to peel the lid off some of the zone coverages the Broncos will see.

But Jeudy’s route running makes him a catch-and-run option the Broncos need if the offense is really going to challenge defenses that haven’t felt very challenged by the Broncos offense in the post-Peyton Manning era. Wilson’s sense of timing and ability to see the mismatches more quickly will help.

But there is an urgency for Jeudy to show in games what he has flashed in practices.

“Opportunities arise in this league daily, and opportunities in this league also close quickly,’’ said Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten. “With him and anyone else, when an opportunity arises in the room in a competition, pushing for a spot or being the lead guy, that has to be on a consistent basis. I think that Jerry has been coming along a lot better than he did in OTAs. I think he feels more comfortable with Russ, the expectations of Russ. He’s meeting them more.’’