Refusing to dump Broncos receiver Jerry Jeudy at NFL trade deadline is best move GM George Paton never made


In a lost season, the Broncos have finally found the receiver they were hoping Jerry Jeudy could be when he grew up.

“Let’s go!” Jeudy screamed with delight, as he bounced into the locker room shortly after dusk on Sunday when Denver beat Arizona 24-15 to end a five-game losing streak. “Bout time! It’s been a long time.”

With the 15th pick in the 2020 NFL draft, the Broncos took Jeudy out of Alabama, making him the second receiver off the board, ahead of CeeDee Lamb from Oklahoma and Justin Jefferson from Louisiana State, both of whom have already made a Pro Bowl impact on the game.

“You get frustrated sometimes,” Jeudy admitted. “But you’ve got to keep on pushing. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. So I’ve got to keep on pushing, keep on working.”

While not a bust, it’s not a stretch to suggest Jeudy was trending in the direction of becoming another in a long line of draft disappointments from the John Elway era of roster construction. When not dinged by injury, Jeudy’s emotions have frequently ranged from hands-in-the-air vexation to official-bumping anger.

Joy? Not so much. He seldom looked at home in Denver, where coaches on the staffs of both Vic Fangio and Nathaniel Hackett sometimes appeared perplexed on how to maximize Jeudy’s stiletto-sharp ability to slice up a secondary with his precise route-running.

“I haven’t been as consistent as I want to be, due to injuries, due to certain circumstances I can’t control,” Jeudy said. “Now I’m finally being able to take advantage of these opportunities.”

When teams from Green Bay to Dallas came calling six weeks ago, trying to coax general manager George Paton to dump Jeudy at the Nov. 1 trade deadline, I believed it was best for all concerned for Jeudy to get out of Denver and get a fresh start elsewhere in the league.

Sometimes the best football move is one a general manager doesn’t make in haste or frustration. I was wrong to think Jeudy needed to go. Paton was correct to resist any temptation to give up on him.

After two games in his role as the X receiver after a hamstring injury shelved Courtland Sutton, Jeudy looks to be a keeper. During the past two weeks, Jeudy has caught 15 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns. The third-year pro still must prove he can be truly elite as Denver’s No. 1 option in the passing game.

But, as it turns out, instead of a change of scenery, maybe all Jeudy really needed to jump-start a frustrating young career of unfulfilled potential was a change of position.

“The coaches have been doing a great job of putting me in a great position to make plays. And the quarterback has been giving me the ball in the right place,” Jeudy said. “ So hats off to them.”

While Jeudy has only flashed a proclivity for chunk plays that blow the top off a defense, his 14.3 yards per catch for his career compare very favorably to long-ball threats Tyreek Hill of Miami (13.9) and Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs (12.5).

With Brett Rypien stepping in to play quarterback while the team’s brain trust wisely gave Russell Wilson an extra week to recover from a nasty blow to the head he received in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Klint Kubiak leaned on a 34:26 run-to-pass ratio against the Cardinals.

“You ask any quarterback, and they’re going to want a run game,” said Rypien, who took what the Cardinals conceded in the passing game, often hitting Jeudy on the quick bubble screens that were once a staple of a strong connection between Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas.

That’s the complementary football that fits this defense-first team. It proved to be a far more patient and sound strategy than Hackett’s past inclination to force the flash and dash of his dreams, which the Broncos don’t have the offensive personnel to execute.


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