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Denver Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman has accomplished a lot in his football career, but he still has even more to prove.
A former national champion at Ohio State, Heuerman was used mostly as a blocker for Ezekiel Elliot on the Buckeyes run to the national title. He has a Super Bowl ring, too, but had to sit out that season as he suffered an ACL tear during rookie minicamps.
Since then, things have been tough for the former third-round pick who seemingly had all the tools needed to blossom into an every-down tight end.
It goes without saying that 2018 is a make or break year for No. 82, and even if he’s starting the year off as the first stringer on Denver’s depth chart, he hasn’t exactly earned that spot as he was slowed down by knee soreness throughout training camp.
Finally, in the last few days, though, Heuerman got back on the field and the early returns are positive.
“He’s been back two days and looked great,” said head coach Vance Joseph.
John Elway was more candid in his assessment of Heuerman and the expectations going into this season.
“We drafted Jeff in the third round, three or four years ago, so we have high expectations because he has a lot of talent. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy. He’s struggled with some injuries, but he’s very talented and he wants to be a good player and he wants to be on the field. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy and keep him out there, because we think he can be a guy that can be very helpful at tight end.”
Heuerman has it all, he’s a great blocker, he has the size and athleticism to be a mismatch problem, but what he’s been missing—aside from a good run of health—has been consistency and a competitive fire to dominate the man across from him.
Early signs in his first couple appearances in camp suggest he might’ve turned that corner, making him a potentially crucial weapon for Denver’s offense.
On his side, the only Bronco with two rings is feeling ready and healthy to change the course of his pro career.
“I honestly felt really good out there today. It was kind of my first time back, first time getting some live reps and stuff. I’ve been running and conditioning, catching some balls and stuff. But today was the first day back and it felt really good just being back out there with the guys and in training camp and just the whole vibe of everything. It’s awesome just to be back.”
To feel confident in their two tight end sets, which we saw a good amount of in the opening preseason game and are key in Bill Musgrave’s offense, Denver needs a well-rounded TE.
Make no mistake, while this is a big year for 82, the Broncos need him, now more than ever.
Without Virgil Green, they need his blocking to establish their run-first identity. Not to mention they need him as a receiver, too, as he can be a trusted target for Keenum on third-and-short and in the red zone where his 6-foot-5 frame can be an asset—two areas in which Denver’s new QB thrived a year ago.
Written off for most of his career and often treated as an afterthought, Heuerman has never been counted on more as a pro.
For Denver to beat teams the way their defense has been beaten before, a tight end needs to step up and for the first time in a long time, Heuerman finally looks ready to answer the call.