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Instead of being informative this week, I choose to use this time to bitch and complain. Enjoy!
Not every outstanding rookie can have an equally great follow-up season. This is what we have come to know as the “Sophomore Slump”. While it is hard to live up the expectations of a great first year, it is quite another thing to just halt production altogether.
This season’s victim is Denver Bronco’s wide receiver Eddie Royal. Royal was a beast of a receiver during his first season in 2008 where he had 91 receptions (2nd most for a rookie) for 980 yds and five TD. With one season under his belt, the sky was the limit for Royal.
Those of us (like me), who invested a draft pick in Royal, are paying the price. Through six games, Royal has just 18 catches for 148 yds and zero TD. Even though he has two kick returns for TD (one kickoff, one punt), it is still not good enough. Royal is second on the team in receptions, but he is fifth in receiving yds. When you drafted him, did you really think he would be outdone by the likes of Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney? Yeah, neither did I.
Yahoo! had Royal ranked within the top 70 players on draft day, and I took him in the sixth round of one of my drafts, ahead of receivers like Hines Ward, Jericho Cotchery, and DeSean Jackson. If I had known he was going to be the next Michael Clayton, then I would have stayed away.
During Royal’s rookie season, he had the distinct advantage of having a real gunslinger at QB. When Jay Cutler was Royal’s QB during the 2008 season, Cutler lit it up with 4,526 yds and 25 TD. Kyle Orton has never been about the yards. His career-high in passing yds is 2,972, which he achieved last season. Orton is about controlling the game and making few mistakes. He is a smart QB, not a big-yardage QB.
This effectively means that there just isn’t enough passing yards to go around. The clear go-to-guy in Denver is obviously Brandon Marshall and everyone else is just their as a supporting cast. Denver itself is also more of a running-oriented team as they have the 7th best rushing offense in football with 132 rush yds per contest.
Simply put, Denver’s defense last season was terrible. They were ranked 29th in the NFL last season with over 370 total yds allowed per game. This led to Denver always being behind and having to play catch-up by throwing the ball all the time.
This season is a COMPLETELY different story. The Broncos have the 2nd best defense in football with only 262 total yds allowed per game. When your team is not falling behind all the time, there is little incentive to throw it. With a dominant defense and great running game, there is just no reason for Kyle Orton to pass the ball around unless he has to. So far, he really hasn’t had to.
When Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels took the head coaching job with the Broncos, everyone assumed that the Broncos would become the Patriots of the AFC West. Eddie Royal was labeled as the Wes Welker of the Broncos.
What ended up happening was that instead of Royal coming out of the slot and catching all of the short passes over the middle like Wes Welker, Royal is lining up as the straight up #2 receiver. Instead of being a Wes Welker, Eddie Royal has become a Donte Stallworth/Joey Galloway.
If things continue to go this well for 6-0 Broncos, then Eddie Royal’s role in the offense will remain the same: virtually non-existent. Through his first six games played last season, Royal had 39 receptions for 392 yds, almost double what he has through six games this year.
Even though you may have had high hopes of a 1,000 yard season, and even though you may have drafted him to be an every week starter for your team, it is time to cut Royal loose. If he isn’t producing and if he is just taking away a roster spot on your bench, then he has to be let go.
Just put a bullet in Old Yeller and be done with it.