The Denver Broncos open the 2021 NFL season on the road against the New York Giants. The two teams share somewhat similar makeups in terms of the style of their starting units. They each possess strong secondaries, a focus on the run game, and question marks at quarterback. To begin their 2021 campaign, Denver must rely most heavily on wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to help new starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater produce.
Wide Receiver Jerry Jeudy is Key to Teddy Bridgwater’s Week 1 Success
Jerry Jeudy’s rookie campaign in 2020 saw the young receiver receive more targets than expected due to the injury of number-one receiver Courtland Sutton. He saw a team-high 113 passes thrown his way throughout the year. Jeudy accrued 52 receptions for a team-best 856 yards from those 113 targets. While he only scored three touchdowns, the potential for consistent home-run plays was evident. With a far more experienced quarterback now under center, 2021 should see Jeudy move from potential to production.
A Breakout Year for Wide Receiver Jerry Jeudy?
It is no secret Courtland Sutton is the top receiver in Denver, and Jeudy’s development since last season most likely won’t change that. Receivers K.J. Hamler and Tim Patrick will also see a high number of targets. This is not even to mention tight end Noah Fant’s share of the pass distribution. With so many mouths to feed, Jeudy must earn his targets the old-fashioned way: by getting and staying open for his quarterback.
Despite his youth and relative inexperience, Jeudy is by far Denver’s best route runner. From his route-running prowess alone, Jeudy should find himself open consistently in 2021. If he can eliminate his concentration issues from last year, the University of Alabama alumnus can string together bigger and bigger plays as the year progresses. Not many teams on Denver’s schedule have the speed, athleticism, and depth in the secondary to contain Jeudy and Denver’s embarrassment of riches at the receiver position. He certainly might have benefited more from the superior arm strength and vertical-passing-oriented mind of Drew Lock, but Teddy Bridgewater is under center.
With Bridgewater at the helm, Jeudy will most likely run far more rub routes, as well as intermediate crossing routes. Bridgewater’s play in preseason illustrated a commitment to at least attempting to get the ball to Jeudy in these situations. As such, a consistent focus on doing so should yield even better numbers for the young receiver. Don’t be surprised to see offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur take advantage of Jeudy’s speed and agility with a high volume of screen passes. If Jeudy managed to post 856 yards with concentration issues and inconsistency at quarterback, the sky’s the limit in 2021.
The Denver Broncos Offense
The Broncos are a fairly run-heavy offensive unit. Their opponents for Week 1, New York, were middle-of-the-pack against both the pass and the run in 2020. The Giants made several off-season acquisitions to improve their defensive standing in the league, however. This means the Broncos must coach to their players’ strengths unlike they have for the last few years.
The New York Giants boast a pair of talented cornerbacks in James Bradberry IV and Adoree’ Jackson. The former is one of the top corners in the NFL, in fact. Their safety unit is also full of young and athletic players capable of wreaking havoc on passing offenses, particularly those who push down the field. Teddy Bridgewater, however, is unlikely to spend much time throwing deep in 2021, let alone against the Giants.
As such, the Broncos must rely on play-action passing and intermediate routes to create more opportunities for runs after the catch. Jeudy, a yards-after-the-catch machine, should thrive in this regard. Courtland Sutton will invariably demand the attention of New York’s top corner (Bradberry). Due to this, Denver’s expansive arsenal of receiving weapons should face a greater number of one-on-one matchups. No pass-catcher on the Broncos offense benefits more from this than wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.
Teddy Bridgwater and the Wide Receivers
Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant are clearly the security blankets for Teddy Bridgewater. They should each find their own varying degrees of success against the New York Giants. That said, it is wide receiver Jerry Jeudy who will prove most important to Teddy Bridgewater’s Week 1 production. Adoree’ Jackson will most likely wind up the cornerback matched up with Jeudy, and while Jackson is undoubtedly athletic and agile, he is simply not close to Jeudy’s level of quickness and explosiveness as a route-runner.
However, if Teddy Bridgewater is unable to feed Jeudy the ball early and often, the Broncos may face a similar issue to that which they endured in Super Bowl 48. The New York defense is not nearly as disciplined, effective, or violent, but will still endeavor to keep the ball in front of them. Knowing this, the Broncos must use Jeudy’s explosiveness to create and exploit mismatches all over the field. Should Bridgewater place his trust in Jeudy, he will be rewarded in credited yards he did not throw. He will also receive credit for touchdowns earned more through Jeudy’s ball-carrying skills than through his own passing efficiency.
Why Wide Receiver Jerry Jeudy—and Not Courtland Sutton—is the Key to Teddy Bridgewater’s Success in Week 1
Jeudy is the skill player most likely to take a short pass (Bridgewater’s forte) and go all the way. Yes, Sutton, Fant, Hamler, and Patrick all have shown the ability to do so themselves. Nonetheless, there is no receiver better built for these home-run plays than the Alabama product. Bridgewater’s superior manipulation of and movement in the pocket will allow him to better extend plays than Drew Lock. The rest of the pass-catchers in Denver are more likely to find themselves deployed as possession receivers to move the chains. Jeudy, on the other hand, is simply built differently.
Compared to the other four top pass-catchers, Jeudy has far and away the best yards-after-catch-per-reception figures. 284 of his 856 yards in 2020 (about 33.2 percent) came after the catch, in fact. Denver’s receivers’ average depth of target is poised for a noticeable decrease. As a result, Jeudy’s ability to convert a reception into yards after the catch makes him the most invaluable target on the offense— especially in Week 1. New York’s defense is built to defend against deeper passes, so Jeudy is virtually guaranteed yards-after-the-catch. This is almost completely regardless of who lines up across from him.
As goes wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, so goes Teddy Bridgewater. The same, at least as far as Week 1 is concerned, cannot be said for the rest of Denver’s receivers.
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