The Denver Broncos aren’t unleashing wide receiver Courtland Sutton in practice, and head coach Vic Fangio offered an insightful reason why.
The Denver Broncos unleashed Courtland Sutton immediately after drafting him last year.
Every practice, whether it was at rookie camp, OTAs, or training camp, seemingly had another big moment for Sutton as a deep receiver.
Sutton was so good beating guys deep downfield in jump ball situations, in fact, that reporters started calling him a “60-40” receiver, implying that he had a clear advantage in jump-ball, “50-50” situations.
And that was really the primary skill Sutton took into his rookie year. He racked up 704 yards on 42 receptions (84 targets) and had four touchdowns. His biggest plays came on — you guessed it — jump ball plays or big plays deep downfield.
Unfortunately for Sutton, consistency was hard to come by. He struggled to create separation at the line of scrimmage and struggled to bring the Broncos a reliable target in other ways besides just hitting home runs deep.
Even then, Sutton literally became a “50-50” receiver by season’s end, catching exactly 50 percent of his targets as a rookie.
Considering how often we saw Sutton make big plays at training camp last year, why haven’t we been hearing as much about his physical dominance deep downfield? Broncos head coach Vic Fangio gave an insightful answer after Thursday’s practice.
"“I think a common mistake players can make on their own and coaches can do too is just keep practicing what a guy does well. You have to keep what you do well oiled up and always ready to go, but you have to become more of a complete player. You don’t want to be a one-trick pony. We’re trying to get him—expand his route tree, expand how he’s getting the ball and see if we can improve him that way.”Vic Fangio (quotes via Broncos PR)"
Well, isn’t that a novel concept?
It’s not that the Broncos specifically were ignoring Sutton’s weaknesses when Vance Joseph was running the team, and Fangio was obviously not present for those practices, but it was clear that specific areas of Sutton’s game had not developed properly over the course of the year.
For Broncos fans, this comment by Fangio contextually makes a lot of sense, or at least you can fit these pieces together. The effect was a lack of effectiveness in other areas besides running deep downfield and making jump ball catches. The cause was perhaps that Sutton was mainly just practicing what he was good at.
I love the idea of players like Sutton really stretching themselves at training camp and becoming more effective overall. Everyone expected Sutton to take a leap forward in year two, but that leap forward isn’t going to come without hard work involved.
He’s getting out of his comfort zone in practices, and this is yet another example among many so far of the intentionality of this new coaching staff and how they are prioritizing player development and fundamentals over strictly including guys who ‘fit’ a scheme.