First, the jelly: In his NFL debut in primetime, Jerry Jeudy showed flashes of the game-breaking potential that has Broncos fans amped, as the rookie hauled in four catches for 56 yards.
Now, the salt: The wideout also had two drops in the deflating 16-14 loss to Tennessee. His second drop came on the Broncos’ final drive, when quarterback Drew Lock’s pass hit off Jeudy’s hands on a quick post that would’ve taken Denver well into Tennessee territory.
“We expect him to catch that pass, and he expects himself to catch it,” coach Vic Fangio said. “It would’ve put us in field goal range and given us a first down, and those are the mistakes that can cost you when you’re playing a good team.”
Had Jeudy caught the pass — and had the Broncos been able to, at the very least, convert the drive into a Brandon McManus field goal and 17-13 lead — the Titans’ offense would’ve had to score a touchdown on their final drive to win. Instead, a chip-shot field goal allowed kicker Stephen Gostkowski to redeem himself following three missed field goals and a shanked point-after prior.
Following Jeudy’s drop, the Broncos went three-and-out, punted to the Titans, and saw their late lead slip away into another disappointing Week 1 loss under Fangio.
Even with the critical error, the Broncos backed Jeudy postgame, as Lock said the wideout “learned his lesson” on being too hyped-up in his debut after Denver selected him 15th overall in April’s draft.
“Because I feel like I know Jerry, I think he wanted to do well so badly, that he kind of forced some (pressure) on himself,” Lock said. “It’s kind of like what I did in my first start — I forced a couple balls into windows because I wanted to win so badly, and do well so badly.”
Veteran running back Melvin Gordon echoed the offense’s confidence in the rookie, noting he and other Broncos skill players were coaching Jeudy up amid his miscues.
“When he dropped it out there, I said, ‘Bro, you got it. Forget that,’” Gordon said. “Football is a game where mistakes are going to be made, and it’s part of the game. The players who really excel are the guys who get over it the quickest, and make up for it. That’s what we were coaching him on, and letting him know. It was his first game, but I can promise you, he’s pretty hard on himself about the drops, knowing the caliber of player he is.”
Tight end Noah Fant, who tied a career high with five receptions for 81 yards, said Jeudy’s drops are “not really alarming for me.” Jeudy’s longest reception on the night was 25 yards, and he also had a 21-yard catch that helped spark the Broncos’ lone touchdown drive of the second half.
“Nobody wants drops, but coming from me, I understand — I’ve been a rookie, and I’ve been in that spot before,” Fant said. “Jerry has all the ability in the world, and we all know he’s going to be a very good player for us.”