Denver loses ‘heart and soul’ of WR room as Tim Patrick suffers knee injury, Broncos counting on healthy receivers to step up

In Patrick’s absence, the Broncos’ other receivers will need to make strides.

“A guy like Tim, who’s such an amazing leader, who’s done everything you asked, it breaks your heart because you love him,” Hackett said. “On the flip side, it gives somebody else the opportunity to really grow and become a great player. That’s what we’re going to need. Whenever you have these things happen, it’s about supporting the man, because we are about the entire team , but then at the same time, now flipping it out and going, ‘Now everybody’s got to pick it up and somebody’s got to show up.'”

Sutton and Jerry Jeudy will remain the team’s top options and will likely need to elevate their level of play. A year ago, Sutton caught 58 passes for 776 yards and two touchdowns in 17 games, while Jeudy hauled in 38 passes for 467 yards and no scores in 10 contests. Denver may need more from both players for their offense to reach its intended heights.

The Broncos’ offense should also benefit from KJ Hamler’s presence when he makes his return to 11-on-11 work. During his healthy rookie season, he caught 30 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns as a deep threat.

Then, there’s a slew of players competing for an opportunity. Kendall Hinton, Montrell Washington, Kaden Davis, Travis Fulgham, Tyrie Cleveland, Jalen Virgil, Seth Williams, Trey Quinn and Brandon Johnson will all aim to prove they are deserving of a roster spot. In a typical year, a team will keep five or six receivers on its 53-man roster, which means the nine players listed will likely compete for two or three spots.

Hinton and Fulgham have the most regular season experience, as Hinton caught 15 passes for 175 yards and a score last year and Fulgham led the Eagles in receiving in 2020 with 539 yards and four touchdowns. Cleveland, meanwhile, has been tabbed as a core special teamer by Special Teams Coordinator Dwayne Stukes. And, through the early days of camp, Washington has shown promise as a rookie.

“I’m excited to see the tape and get a little better evaluation, but ’12’ [Washington] made a couple good plays, Jerry did some things,” Hackett said of who stepped up after Patrick’s injury. “All those guys are going to have to rally together. That’s part of this game, and it’s the worst part of this game is when things like that happen. But it also has to bring your team together. You have show the support and love for their family because they’re part of our family, and we’ve got to find a way to fill that void.”

Sutton said he believes there is an open competition for the final few spots, which will now see increased attention.

“A lot of guys are battling,” Sutton said. “A lot of the guys are trying to make that push to get into that space. It’s still early into camp. A lot of guys got reps to go out there to get. … It’s going to be an opportunity for all those guys to step up and try to make a name for themselves to be able to go out there and give themselves the opportunity to get some more reps.”

The competition will be particularly interesting in the coming days, as Hamler has not worked in 11-on-11 drills and Cleveland missed Tuesday’s practice with a throat injury. That leaves the Broncos with 10 healthy receivers in camp.

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