In his final game before a contract season, Jerry Jeudy made a statement: He’s ready to be the consistent, big-play wideout that Denver desperately needs.
The Broncos’ third-year receiver set a career-high with 154 yards on five catches, including two that went for over 50 yards, in the Broncos’ 31-28 win over the Chargers at Empower Field.
“It’s been really cool to see him step into that (big-play role lately),” safety Justin Simmons said. “Jerry’s just showing everyone what we already knew.”
Sunday’s performance at Empower Field again cemented as Jeudy as the No. 1 receiver in Russell Wilson’s offense with KJ Hamler hurt and Courtland Sutton’s production waning in the second half of the season. And it earned Jeudy a game ball, too.
“He’s an explosive player,” interim head coach Jerry Rosburg said. “Last week (in a loss to Kansas City) we didn’t have enough explosive plays, and today Jerry helped us out with that.”
Jeudy finishes with 972 receiving yards this season, a career-high and one big play short of his first 1,000-yard season. He went over the 100-yard mark in two of Denver’s final three games, and also set career highs with three touchdowns on eight catches in the Week 14 loss to Kansas City at home.
It marked a furious finish to the season for Jeudy, who missed the better part of three games from Week 10 through Week 12 after sustaining an injured ankle on the Broncos’ opening play in a loss in Tennessee. Despite missing that time, he still finished as the team’s leading receiver.
Rosburg said he saw “a more physical Jerry Jeudy” down the stretch of the season, especially in Jeudy’s ability to finish plays for more yardage after defenders caught up to him.
“He’s still growing (as a player),” Rosburg said. “He’s clearly got abilities and he can be a great player.”
Jeudy has come a long way since his rookie season when he struggled with drops. He had two drops in his debut against the Titans in 2020, including one that likely cost Denver pivotal points in the 16-14 loss. He finished the year with a team-high 10 drops, including five drops in a late-season loss to the Chargers.
But Jeudy was the opposite of that unreliable receiver this time around against Los Angeles. His hands were sure and his feet were even more sure as Chargers defenders continually had a tough time corralling him after the catch.
Jeudy said going into the offseason with some individual momentum “feels really good.”
“The coaches are putting me in the right spot to make plays, and I’m taking advantage of them,” Jeudy said. “The biggest thing is I’ve improved with my consistency. When I do get the ball, I want to make a play every chance I get. That, mixed with the physicality and wanting to score and be a spark to this offense (caused the late-season breakout).”
Jeudy’s goal for 2022 was to lead the league in all major receiving categories; he fell well short of that, but if the Broncos’ offense can somehow find an identity next season, it could be a realistic goal in 2023.
Will the rest of the league take notice of Jeudy’s late-season surge, and what it might portend?
“I hope so,” Jeudy said.