Broncs’ rookie Royal flashes skills as receiver
Vail, CO Colorado
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado ” Broncos rookie Eddie Royal was picked primarily for his flashy ability on kick returns.
The second-round pick is showing he can catch a little bit as well, making one remarkable reception after another at training camp.
Royal has caught the eye of coach Mike Shanahan, who boasted about Royal’s receiving skills after morning practice Wednesday. The Virginia Tech standout hardly let a ball hit the turf, even snaring a 45-yard strike from Jay Cutler in the middle of traffic.
“He’s been very impressive,” Shanahan said. “He’s got a burning desire to make the starting lineup.”
Earning a starting job doesn’t seem likely at receiver, a position the Broncos are loaded in, even with the recent retirement of Rod Smith. The team has Brandon Marshall as their top target, and established wideouts like Keary Colbert, Darrell Jackson and Samie Parker are competing for the other spot.
Brandon Stokley is already entrenched at slot receiver, a position he’s excelled at throughout his career.
Yet Royal’s making a strong push for playing time, even earning praise from the defensive backs he’s burning on a consistent basis.
“I’m very impressed,” Dre’ Bly said. “He’s asking me constantly what things he needs to work on to improve his game.”
Royal’s emergence could help ease the burden should Marshall draw a suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his off-the-field legal troubles. A decision is expected soon.
The talented but troubled Marshall is also recovering from a right arm injury in which he cut an artery, vein, nerve, two tendons and three muscles in an accident at a resort in Orlando, Fla., in March. He said Wednesday as he ran off the field that camp is going well for him.
“I’m enjoying it,” said Marshall, who’s coming off a 102-catch season. “Glad to be out there and just having fun. I’m feeling good.”
Coming out of college, Royal was typecast as a special teams maven. It’s easy to see why as he set an Atlantic Coast Conference record with 1,296 yards on punt returns throughout his career, along with another 1,386 yards on kickoff returns.
But he had quite a track record as a receiver too, ranking fourth in Virginia Tech history in career receptions (119), fifth in receiving touchdowns (12) and sixth in receiving yards (1,778).
The 5-foot-10, 182-pound Royal knew he could cut it as a receiver at the next level. He just had to show others.
“You always have to have a chip on your shoulder in this game, play like you have something to prove,” Royal said. “I definitely feel like that. Every day I come out here, I’m trying to work hard.”
The always affable Royal came into camp with a good portion of his play book memorized. He didn’t want to make the typical rookie blunders, like forgetting where he was supposed to be in certain formations.
That’s why he’s standing out now. He’s not thinking, just acting.
“You have to show you’re ready to play,” said Royal, who earned his sociology degree from Virginia Tech in 31/2 years.
Given Royal’s diminutive size and burning speed, he may be better suited for the slot position, where he can be used on reverses and screens as well as running deep routes.
Not that he quite sees it that way. He wants to split out wide. After all, Carolina’s Steve Smith has made a career of it, despite being on the smaller side.
“You’re always going to have doubters,” Royal said. “You prove them wrong. … I feel like I can do everything. To be a complete receiver, you’ve got to be able to do everything.”
As for special teams, Royal thinks he can definitely give the Broncos a boost. He’ll try to beat out Glenn Martinez for punt return duties and Andre Hall for kickoff responsibilities.
“It’s going great,” said Royal, who returned two punts for touchdowns last season for the Hokies. “I just don’t want to play like a rookie.”
So far, he’s had few of the growing pains associated with newcomers, something that’s resonating with Shanahan.
“He’s making plays during practice, and when you make plays during practice, usually it carries over to the game,” Shanahan said. “He has a lot of talent, quickness and speed.”
Plus an inquisitive nature. Royal is constantly asking questions, especially from the cornerbacks he’s facing and Smith when he visits the facility.
“The more I add to my arsenal, the better I’ll be,” Royal said. “Every day I have to prove what I can do.”