ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With KJ Hamler sidelined, Kendall Hinton prepared to take his role as a wide receiver on the boundary. He studied the playbook from the perspective of the boundary and lined up on the boundary in practices.
Then Jerry Jeudy went down with an ankle injury on the first offensive play of the game, and Hinton took over his role in the slot.
“The situation came up, I got the opportunity and I made the most of it,” Hinton said. “I’m just happy to be out there.”
Hinton caught four passes for 62 yards.
At 6-feet-tall and under 200 pounds, Hinton profiles best in the slot. When he joined the Broncos in 2020 as an undrafted rookie out of Wake Forest as an undrafted rookie, he played the slot exclusively.
“I hated outside.”
As he carved out a role on the Broncos’ practice squad, and then the active roster, he realized that his path to sticking around in the NFL was understanding his role.
“As a fourth, fifth receiver, you’ve gotta be prepared for those situations,” Hinton said of the quick shift to the slot. “I take a lot of pride in knowing every position and studying. That allows me the opportunity.”
Hinton also recognized his role when Pat Surtain joined the Broncos’ roster as the ninth overall pick after Hinton’s rookie season. Hinton had worn No. 2 in his first season, and Surtain (nicknamed PS2) had worn it at Alabama.
“I noticed No. 2 was a big deal for him,” Hinton said. “He asked me for it and I let him have it.”
When Sauce Gardner, a cornerback and the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, joined the Jets this offseason he wanted to wear No. 1. He paid fellow cornerback DJ Reed $50,000 to take the jersey number from him.
Hinton laughed at the idea of asking something of Surtain.
“I like nine anyway,” Hinton said.
The 25-year-old wasn’t the only undrafted receiver to play a big role for the Broncos last weekend; Jalen Virgil, a rookie, played his first NFL snaps on Sunday. When Hinton moved to the slot, Virgil took about half of the snaps left open on the boundary.
Virgil’s first catch was a 66-yard touchdown, after a busted coverage left him all alone on the sideline.
“When I saw the ball in the air I knew that if I just caught it I was going to have room to run,” Virgil told DNVR. “I made sure I focused on it because sometimes that’s the hardest ball to catch.”
He had a celebration planned but he didn’t follow through with it.
“My emotions just took over,” he said. “I forgot.”
He was so excited he didn’t even realize his dad was sitting a few rows up in the stands behind the end zone.
“I didn’t know he was sitting there until after the game.”
With Hamler sidelined for a couple more weeks and Jeudy’s status up in the air, Hinton and Virgil could have plenty more opportunities against the Raiders on Sunday.