Day 6 of Broncos training camp was the first one in which they practiced in full pads and a pair of devastating injuries came with it. Starting wide receiver Tim Patrick and backup running back Damarea Crockett saw their seasons end in horrible fashion, with both tearing an ACL in a non-contact situation.
Crockett was injured on a special teams drill, planting the wrong way and falling uncomfortably to the turf. Patrick suffered his injury after making a tremendous reception over cornerback Essang Bassey, seeing his knee buckle horrendously as he turned up field after the catch.
While the injury to Crockett is severe, the loss of Patrick is one that sends a massive ripple effect throughout the Broncos’ wide receiver room. Patrick is arguably the most reliable receiver the Broncos have had over the past couple of seasons and figured to be a key cog in the passing game.
His leadership on the field will be sorely missed, as multiple players specifically have mentioned how much he means to them on a personal level. The news sucks.
Crockett was fighting his tail off to overthrow Mike Boone as the team’s third running back, and Patrick was poised to have a breakout season with Russell Wilson throwing him the football in an offense that accentuated his skill set. But the season goes on.
In terms of replacing Crockett on the roster, there is a good possibility that the team brings in another body off of the street, possibly another as well. With Patrick, there is a sense that the team may opt to look in-house to fill his slot with some of the quality depth the team currently possesses.
Scroll to Continue
Which current Broncos are most likely to see their impact boosted based on what we’ve heard at training camp?
An easy-money decision would be to slide Hamler into the slot and kick Jerry Jeudy outside to the boundary. Jeudy is more than capable of playing anywhere in the formation, and Hamler is a prototype slot receiver with a lot of juice to his game.
Given the draft capital Denver spent on these two players, getting them on the field together would be of high interest to the team. However, there is still a little bit of concern with Hamler as he is coming back from the torn ACL that prematurely ended his 2021 campaign.
He was promoted to the active roster from the PUP list on Monday, and all signs indicated that the Broncos wanted to bring him along slowly throughout training camp. With this injury to Patrick, Hamler may be brought along faster than originally anticipated, though.
The expectation is that Hamler should be a full go for Week 1 of the season, but there is a risk involved in accelerating his workload this early in the process.
What happens next for the Broncos? Don’t miss out on any news and analysis! Take a second and sign up for our FREE newsletter and get breaking Broncos news delivered to your inbox daily!
Although he isn’t quite the player that Hamler is, the same can be applied to Hinton in this scenario. He is a quick-twitch athlete with a knack for making plays out of the slot in practices, so there is definitely a consideration for him to be an option should Hamler need more time to get ready for his eventual return to full-time action.
Hinton and Montrell Washington — who figures to be the team’s punt and kick return specialist — could both make the roster and see some time playing in the slot.
With the options on the roster currently, there isn’t a receiver with the body type or traits to truly replace what Patrick brings to the field. However, the closest player to what Patrick brings is easily Cleveland.
Cleveland is a boundary receiver with long speed to take the top off vertically but isn’t quite Patrick’s route runner or physical presence.
Now, to be clear here, the Broncos shouldn’t force a square peg into a round hole. The team needs to figure out how to fit a player like Cleveland onto the field in a way that makes sense for what he brings.
That said, If the Broncos want to incorporate a bigger-bodied boundary receiver into the offense and keep Jeudy working the field from the slot, Cleveland is the easy choice to slot into that role.
An undrafted rookie out of Central Florida, Johnson keeps getting mentioned as a guy that continues to make plays for the offense. Another bigger-bodied receiver that succeeds on the boundary and has shown out for the special teams unit, Johnson could sneak his way onto the roster if he keeps his play improving on the third team.
There’s still a long way to go for Johnson to improve his craft and overtake a couple of the veterans ahead of him, but being a core special teams player and offering the big play ability he has shown thus far in camp could see him replace Hinton.
The roster math with boundary receivers and slot receivers gets tricky with adding Johnson here, but the one thing that Hinton doesn’t do is play on the special teams units. If Denver wants to keep a sixth receiver on the roster, the battle between Hinton and Johnson is one to watch.
Follow Lance on Twitter @SandersonMHH.
Follow Mile High Huddle on Twitter and Facebook.
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!