DENVER — Not For Long doesn’t have to be a derogatory term from the acronym NFL.
Not For Long did Broncos emerging star Courtland Sutton go from second-round rookie receiver who looked up to veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to vet receiver who is now mentoring rookies Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler.
Two years is all.
“It’s funny to look back at that,’’ Sutton said during a Zoom video call Thursday with the Denver media. “Coach Z (Zach Azzanni) said something about being an OG in the room. It’s funny him saying that because I am only going into my third year but our room is very young.’’
Let’s say OG stands for Old Guy.
“It’s completely different from how DaeSean (Hamilton) and I came into a room where we had Demaryius and Emmanuel who were Pro Bowlers and Super Bowl-winning guys and we walked in there like, ‘We must be sponges,’’’ Sutton said. “These guys have seen what we want to see and have done what we want to do.’’
The emergence of Sutton as a No. 2-type receiver during his rookie season allowed Broncos general manager John Elway to trade away Thomas halfway through 2018. The following season’s breakout of Sutton as a No. 1-type receiver allowed Elway to trade away Sanders halfway through 2019.
Now Sutton is the unquestioned leader of a Broncos’ receiver group with rookies Jeudy and Hamler expected to be on his flanks.
“It’s something where we want to take it upon ourselves to help coach Z coach these guys,’’ Sutton said. “Demaryius and Emmanuel were not afraid to give us guidance on the field, off the field, whatever it may be. …
“So to be able to give that back to the guys who are coming into the (receiver) room now, it’s awesome where we had good leaders who showed us the way and they gave us a blueprint to pass this knowledge on and continue this trend so that our room can get that respect around the league.”
Sutton was targeted 84 times as a rookie in 2018 and finished with 42 catches for 704 yards and four touchdowns. He was known primarily for coming down with the 50-50 balls off downfield routes.
He was targeted a whopping 124 times in year two as he added middle, hooks and slant routes to his game and finished with 72 catches for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns – numbers that earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl.
“I think the biggest thing – I’m sure all you guys have either written about or read about – was becoming a better route runner,’’ Sutton said. “I’m still to this day continuing to fine-tune comb my route running. … That was one thing I struggled with coming into the league. I thought that I was a good route runner. I thought that I could run every route on the tree but I realized that wasn’t the case.’’