It’s way too early in the NFL Season to define what exactly is a trend and what is pure happenstance. However, it’s never too early to examine what is happening to various players and why it might be happening.
More importantly, we can examine whether it is likely to happen again.
Even with minimal data, one can start to see patterns. With this column every week we’ll look at a few players who have concerned or excited us in the previous games and see if we can spot something before anyone else.
Part of this column – an important one I might add – is your input. Is there a player I missed? Someone I haven’t hit yet who is doing a great under-the-radar job? Email me and let me know at thunderingblurb(at)gmail.com.
Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos
During the preseason, with all the drama surrounding his fellow wide receiver Brandon Marshall, Royal said and did everything right.
He spoke about team-first, about how much he liked the system. He played and practiced hard. Everything pointed towards a second good season for Royal.
Five catches and just 38 yards later, owners are worried. Royal has stumbled out of the gate and hard.
Well, it’s not lack of targets, though you could debate the quality of them. Royal has been thrown to 13 times in two games, as much as Brandon Marshall and more often than Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney.
Gaffney and Stokley have done far more with their targets though and have made some veteran plays Royal seems unable to pull off.
Comparing Royal at this point to a veteran like Stokley points to perhaps part of the problem.
For much of Royal’s time on the field, he seemed to be pressing and trying to make plays happen instead of working with what the situation dictates.
On one play late in the first half, he catches a short pass from Orton and has a chance to make a nice gain after the catch – maybe another five or so yards. Instead, he cuts and reverses across the field.
Unfortunately the Browns defense actually does it’s job and he’s stopped short, gaining just a few yards and eating valuable clock time as Denver is driving to close the first half.
Contrast this with Stokley who several times during key drives not only got his first down, but had the awareness of clock, defensive presence and what his offense needed in order to allow him to get out of bounds.
This sort of play – while making more perhaps of a play than perhaps designed for – still boils down to an awareness of what you can do in a situation, rather than trying to force something in a situation that makes it nearly impossible.
If Royal keeps this up, it could get worse.In my opinion, he is simply trying to do too much.
Of course, Orton is also part of the problem. He has had some problems trying to get the ball to Royal at times, either because of coverage or because the two haven’t clicked in timing.
Again, if Orton keeps having issues getting the ball to Orton he may try less often especially if Stokley and Gaffney continue to be effective.
While I am concerned about Royal, I wouldn’t drop him. If he could be fitted into a trade, fine, but you probably won’t get fair value for him.
I do believe he will get it together at some point soon. A lot of the issues seem to be him getting comfortable in this offense and with Kyle Orton – and Orton with him as well.
Those things take time.
I believe if you hang in there he will get better, but I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at a fair offer if it came across my desk.
The next few weeks will be critical for Royal and his owners. We must watch for two key indicators – first his targets must stay up. Second, he must stop pressing and do something with those passes coming his way.
Royal is a player whose value is in flux still and a few strong performances may find him back to being a viable fantasy earner. For now, it’s hard to see him as more than a WR3 at best.