Former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan wanted a receiver who could return kicks in April 2008, and drafted Eddie Royal instead of DeSean Jackson. For a year that move looked good. Royal caught 91 passes his rookie year. This season, Jackson has turned into one of the NFL’s most dangerous players while Royal has fallen off.
Royal, who missed practice Wednesday with a head/neck injury, has 345 yards and no touchdowns in 14 games. In Jackson’s past two games he has 318 yards and two touchdowns. For the season he has 1,087 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns and is leading the NFL in punt-return average.
“He’s every bit as talented as any other player in this league on offense,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said.
Meanwhile, the Broncos have little answer to why Royal’s numbers are down this season.
“We’d like to get him the ball more consistently,” quarterback Kyle Orton said. “He does such a nice job with it and certainly just kind of turns into that punt returner when he gets the ball.”
Running back Correll Buckhalter returned to practice on a limited basis after missing Sunday’s game with an ankle injury. Safety Renaldo Hill (ankle) and cornerback Ty Law (hamstring) were also limited. Safety David Bruton (illness), linebacker D.J. Williams (ankle) and Royal missed practice. Buckhalter played eight seasons for the Eagles, and didn’t want to miss Sunday’s game at Philadelphia.
“I told myself I’m going to be back for this game no matter what,” Buckhalter said.
The Broncos could clinch a playoff berth Sunday, but need to win and get a lot of help. According to the NFL’s official scenarios, the Broncos can clinch a wild-card spot with a win, a Jacksonville loss or tie, a Miami loss or tie, a New York Jets loss or tie and a Pittsburgh loss or tie.