Broncos Eddie Royal dealing with sophomore slump?
AP Sports Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Eddie Royal’s remarkable rookie season landed him in several television ads this year, including one where he tells viewers they can get two free tacos if the Denver Broncos score two touchdowns.
He calls it the “Royal Treatment.”
And that’s exactly what he’s been getting from defenses this season.
Royal set franchise rookie records with 91 catches for 980 yards and five touchdowns last year, when he became the first player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to record his team’s longest run, reception, kickoff return and punt return in the same year.
He has eight catches for 58 yards and has yet to get into the end zone to help feed those hungry fans.
He averaged six grabs for 65 yards a game in 2008. Now, he’s chipping in two receptions for 14.5 yards for the unbeaten Broncos.
So, what’s wrong?
Nothing, insist offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, head coach Josh McDaniels, quarterback Kyle Orton and Royal himself.
McDaniels suggested Royal’s number just hasn’t come up very often yet, in part because of the defense’s focus on the second-year pro.
“Production to me kind of comes and goes sometimes in this system,” McDaniels said of his complex offense that can change drastically week to week. “I don’t think anybody really tries just to force the ball to one player and there’s been teams that have done some things to try to discourage us from throwing that way sometimes. Other times, there’s somebody else that may be more open, pressure, what have you.
“Eddie Royal’s playing fine. Eddie Royal’s going to have a good season,” McDaniels said. “I just think it’s a matter of time before Eddie has a number of catches in a game or some big plays that will help us win.”
Royal said he’s not only busy absorbing McDaniels’ intricate offense but he’s learning it from every angle.
“I’m playing a lot more positions than I did last year,” Royal said. “I’m moving around. So, I’ve got to learn everybody’s spot. I’m doing everything. You see a receiver lined up out there, that’s a spot that I’m learning.”
It’s like a baseball player being asked to play first, second and third base when all he’s ever played is shortstop. It takes time to master any one position, much less all of them.
“It’s not only a physical challenge, it’s a mental challenge, and I welcome that, and I attack it,” Royal said. “It’s a challenge each week to learn the play book inside and out and to be able to run the different routes.”
So, once he gets all the positions down pat, will his production explode?
“I’m not even thinking about that,” Royal insisted. “I’m thinking about whatever it takes to win. That’s what’s so good about this team is that nobody cares about individual stats. We’re just doing whatever is asked of us to help us win.”
McDaniels said he doesn’t sense any frustration from his receiver whom many expected to play the Wes Welker role in this Patriots-style offense.
“He’s a patient guy. He understands our system. We do a lot of different things. A lot of people touch the ball and that’s how we’ve always run the offense there in New England and that’s how we’re running it here,” McDaniels said.
Because the Broncos are 4-0, Royal said he’s not the least bit concerned with his dive in production, and he’s not so sure that he’s going to start getting more action anyhow.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons this year and we’re spreading the ball around. That’s helping us win, so I feel like we’re going to keep doing that,” he said.
While Royal might not be a fantasy player’s best friend, he is certainly beloved by the Broncos.
Orton said he has his best rapport not with Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall or Jabar Gaffney, a former Patriots receiver who has the most experience in this offense, or even Brandon Stokley, who was his top target in camp.
“Oh, I think Eddie and I probably have the best rapport of all our receivers,” Orton said. “We’ve worked extremely hard and Eddie’s one of those guys that stays after practice every day to run routes and make sure he’s doing everything that I want him to do, so he’s worked hard.
“And we’d love to get him the ball more and maybe this week will be the week.”
Orton isn’t going to force the issue, however.
“I try not to force anything,” said Orton, the league’s only starting QB who has yet to throw an interception this season.
Royal said he’ll gladly average two catches a game if the Broncos keep winning.
“Of course you want to compete and help your team as much as you can, but at the end of the day you want to win,” Royal said. “Your ultimate goal, the reason we play this game, is to get to the playoffs. Each win is helping us do that and that’s all anybody’s thinking about.”