Eddie Royal Shifts to Slot Receiver, Regains Old Form With Broncos
In his first game as the Broncos' primary slot receiver, Royal had a team-high eight receptions for 98 yards in last Sunday's 24-17 loss at Jacksonville.
That's the kind of production Royal rarely enjoyed last season, when as a fixture at split end he saw his reception total tumble to 37 from a career-best 91 during his rookie season in 2008.
Trying to get him back in the mix, coach Josh McDaniels told him last spring that he was being moved inside to the slot.
Even though Royal wouldn't necessarily start and his overall offensive snaps would decline, McDaniels believed Royal would become more involved in the Broncos' attack because of the potential for coverage mismatches against linebackers and safeties.
"We talked about that last spring and we really committed to Eddie playing in the slot and being in that role," McDaniels said.
"There was another thing that went along with that -- unselfishness. He had to understand that to handle that role, there were going to be some plays that he wasn't going to be on the field. Not every player is willing to say, 'That's no problem, coach. I'll do that.' But we felt it was best for the team and best for Eddie.'
"We thought he could be really productive in that role and he certainly was productive opening day and we look forward to continuing to build off that and allow Eddie to take it as far as he can."
Quarterback Kyle Orton said Royal, who studied film in the offseason of some of the league's top slot receivers such as Wes Welker and Santana Moss, seems to have adjusted from playing out on an island to running his routes amid constant traffic.
"You move inside and you've got to be able to feel one, two or three guys and, 'How are they all playing me and where is the most open spot going to be for me to get to?'" Orton said. "We both have to see it the same way. Being able to work with each other now for the time that we have, we're getting more and more comfortable doing it."
The Broncos' passing attack is designed to spread the ball around among Royal and the starting tandem at wideout, Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd.
But Royal, who doubles as the Broncos return specialist, said he has the feeling now that if he gets open, the ball, sooner or later, is going to come his way.
"I think that's when you are playing your best," he said. "You never know where the ball is going to and everybody has an equal opportunity to make a play, so we all feel that way. We are all confident in one another and we are looking forward to this week."
The Broncos host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in their home opener.