|Royal makes impression with 146-yard debut|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 09 September 2008 11:40|
He earned a bachelor's degree from Virginia Tech in 3 1/2 years, and he darted up the depth chart after the Denver Broncos selected him in the second round of the NFL draft.
In minicamp, he started out in the slot position but quickly learned to play flanker and split end, too. A week into training camp he surpassed free agents Darrell Jackson and Keary Colbert to earn a starting job opposite playmaker Brandon Marshall.
Starting is one thing for a rookie. Starring is quite another.
Royal caught nine passes for 146 yards in his dramatic debut, the best introduction by a Broncos rookie receiver since Rick Upchurch's 153-yard performance against Kansas City in 1975.
With Marshall serving his one-game suspension for violating the NFL's code of conduct, Royal was featured in the offense from the start and capped the Broncos' opening drive by slipping behind the Oakland secondary for a 26-yard TD catch, igniting Denver's 41-14 rout of their bitter AFC West rival.
``I'm surprised they did this much without Marshall, being their guy,'' Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. ``I'd be scared to see what they can do with him now.''
The San Diego Chargers will be the first to find out when they visit Invesco Field on Sunday, and quarterback Jay Cutler, for one, is eager to see what his new dynamic duo can accomplish together.
Marshall caught 102 passes for 1,325 yards last season.
``This just opens up a lot of possibilities for us,'' Cutler said. ``We anticipated B-Marsh getting a lot of double coverage up top, and now you can't, because Eddie is on the other side. I've had a good feel for Eddie, and I've been throwing it his way more and more.''
Royal did most of his damage against DeAngelo Hall, who grew so flustered by the rookie that he committed two 15-yard personal fouls against Royal on a second-quarter drive.
The Raiders' vaunted secondary had no answer for Royal.
``We knew he was a quick guy because of the tapes, but we didn't know exactly how they were going to use him,'' Asomugha said. ``In the preseason they didn't do that much with him. They ran a couple double moves, some short routes, a deep one here and there.
lly hadn't seen before.''
Royal's 146 yards marked the sixth-most by a player in his NFL debut since 1960, and he became the first rookie receiver to top 100 yards in his first game since Anquan Boldin's NFL record 217-yard performance in 2003.
With Marshall serving his punishment for a series of off-field misdeeds, Shanahan had no qualms about highlighting his prized rookie in the opener.
``That was our game plan,'' Shanahan said. ``We've been talking about this since Day One. He's been doing it consistently in practice and the preseason, and he carried it over to (Monday night). I can say it doesn't surprise me. He's handled himself like a five-year vet.''
Only a handful of rookie receivers have ever posted 1,000-yard seasons, underscoring how difficult the college-to-pro transition is, perhaps more than at any other position besides quarterback.
``I've heard that, but that's never been my mind-set at all,'' Royal said. ``I mean, everyone adjusts to the game differently. And I've had a lot of people helping me prepare for this challenge.''
Broncos slot receiver Brandon Stokley, a 10-year veteran, said he's never seen another receiver grasp the intricacies and nuances of the NFL game so quickly.
``He works hard, he studies the game, he asks for advice and he came in willing to learn and wanting to learn, which you don't see a lot of nowadays,'' Stokley said.
) face of the Broncos' youth movement. They have 10 rookies on their 53-man roster, the most in the Shanahan era, including left tackle Ryan Clady, the team's top draft pick.
Without much experience, Denver isn't a trendy pick for the playoffs.
``Nobody has been giving us a chance since before the season started,'' cornerback Dre' Bly said. ``They keep picking the Chargers and the Colts and the Pats, and that's what we want. We want to shock the world.''
Champ Bailey got a sneak preview of all the rookies this summer and loved what he saw in Royal.
``He would be tough to cover,'' Bailey said. ``He's a special player. And now we get Brandon back. It's going to be a good situation for us.''