In 2008, rookie Eddie Royal looked like a budding superstar. He was the #2 wide receiver on his team, yet he was on the receiving end of 91 catches for 980 yards and 5 TD. He was lucky enough to have a Pro Bowl quarterback at his disposal. His reception total was the second most ever by a rookie (to Anquan Boldin’s 101). Unfortunately, as we close in on the start of the 2009 season, everything has changed.
First of all, he’s now the main man on the outside for the Broncos, thanks to the antics of Brandon Marshall. Will Marshall ultimately take the field this season as a member of the Broncos? Unless something major changes, he certainly will, but in the his role could be limited thanks to his suspension during training camp and the wedge he’s driven between himself and the franchise.
Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler also had a falling out with the organization, leading to his trade to the Chicago Bears. That leaves Kyle Orton to lead the offense, a certain downgrade.
Last season Orton completed just 34 passes of 20 yards or more, compared to Cutler’s 55. He had 3 completions of 40 yards or more, compared to Cutler’s 7. We’ll find out soon enough if it is the system, conditions or supporting cast, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who would consider Orton even close to the QB Cutler is. Cutler has emerged as one of the elite, while Orton is anything but.
Now that we’ve covered the obvious, where exactly does that leave Royal? Last season the Broncos put the ball in the air 620 times, third most in the NFL. That allowed Marshall & Royal to combine for 195 receptions, but it is highly unlikely that the trend continues.
With Knowshown Moreno brought in to improve a rushing offense that saw its leader have 343 yards, there should be a renewed focus on a ground attack. Coupled with the regression in QB play, the strategy shouldn’t be a surprise.
Thanks to Marshall’s indiscretions, there’s one less receiver to target. That’s good, because his receptions are going to go to someone. It’s bad, because it is one less star for defenses to focus. In turn Royal could see some double coverage this season, especially early in the season if Marshall does not take the field
While he was a second round draft choice, you also have to consider that his college career numbers at Virginia Tech were nowhere close to his professional success. For his four-year career, he had just 119 receptions and 12 TDs. Obviously, there’s no correlation, but you have to wonder if he will be able to repeat last season’s success, especially if Marshall is not a main focus of the offense and with Cutler no longer on the roster.
Let’s take a look at what I’d expect from him this season:
Receiving – 87 catches, 1,010 yards, 6 TD
Everything appears to be stacked against him from taking a huge next step forward this season. That doesn’t mean that I would expect him to completely disappear into football obscurity, however. He showed too much last season and should be able to post at least similar statistics, making him a low-end WR #2, but more of a great WR #3 in my book. He was initially ranked as the #25 WR on our Top 25 list (click here to view), further cementing my view on him.
What do you think of Royal for next season? Do you think he’ll take a step forward? Regress? Post similar numbers?
Make sure to check out our baseball site by clicking here.