ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Tim Patrick has emerged as the NFL’s unlikeliest of go-to receivers.
The 27-year-old wideout who arrived in Denver as a practice squad player in 2017 was buried on the Broncos’ depth chart behind Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton, highly touted rookies Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, and 2018 fourth-rounder DaeSean Hamilton just two months ago.
Yet, heading into Sunday’s game against Kansas City (5-1), Patrick leads the Broncos (2-3) with 20 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns.
He’s posted back-to-back 100-yard games that have helped the Broncos turn around a season that appeared doomed by an early spate of injuries, including Sutton’s torn ACL and linebacker Von Miller’s dislodged ankle tendon.
Before this month, the numbers that defined Patrick’s checkered career were these:
—3 trips through the waiver wire after getting cut by the Ravens, 49ers and Broncos.
—8 weeks on IR with a hand injury in 2019.
—3 offensive coordinators he's worked with in Denver.
—9 different QBs.
This month, Patrick caught six passes from Brett Rypien for a career-high 113 yards in Denver’s 37-28 win over the Jets. He followed that with 101 yards on four receptions in the Broncos’ 18-12 win at New England last week when starting quarterback Drew Lock returned from a sprained shoulder.
“I really like Tim,” coach Vic Fangio said. “I think Tim is a quality NFL receiver. He’s got size, he’s big, tough, competitive at the ball, good runner with the ball after the catch. I’m not surprised by Tim, I think he’s a quality NFL receiver and I’m really glad that we have him.”
Patrick’s sudden success may have caught NFL fans off-guard, sending them rushing to add him to their fantasy rosters, but his teammates swear they saw this breakout coming.
Lock recounted putting in a good word for the 6-foot-4, 212-pounder when he first spoke with newly hired offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur in January.
“I told coach Shurmur before he got here, ‘Hey man, this guy is going to make a lot of plays for us this year,’” Lock said. “He’s not a media guy. No one is going to freak out about him and get 30,000 tweets about Tim Patrick this year, but he’s going to make a lot of plays for us.”
Shurmur smiled at the memory of Lock’s enthusiastic endorsement of Patrick as an emerging playmaker.
“I do remember that conversation because I didn’t know anybody here,” Shurmur said, adding that Lock’s testimony about Patrick showed the two had formed a quick trust in each other. “I think that trust thing is so important in our business. A guy that is there and on the field and competing at a high level all the time, you begin to trust him.”
Patrick said he had no idea Lock had stood up for him like he did.
“I think it speaks volumes to what I’ve been doing since I got here,” Patrick said. “That’s all it takes. It takes one person to notice you and get your foot in the door. Thankfully, that guy was Drew, the starting quarterback of the team.”
Patrick said he wasn’t disturbed when the Broncos drafted Jeudy, Hamler and Tyrie Cleveland this spring.
“I was happy, honestly. It was what we needed for our offense: speed,” Patrick said. “We just needed more speed and Jeudy was the best route runner in his class by far. I would have taken Jeudy in that spot if I was in that same position.
“I was happy and I knew I was going to have to do more for them to be able to get an eye on me. It made me work harder, but it was definitely what our offense needed. I was happy that we made those picks.”
Notes: OLB Jeremiah Attaochu and KR Deonte Spencer (shoulder) were ruled out for Sunday, and LG Dalton Risner (shoulder) is questionable. Fangio said CB A.J. Bouye is ready to return from a shoulder injury. ... Fangio's return options with Spencer out include Patrick, Cleveland, CB Bryce Callahan and RB Phillip Lindsay (kickoffs). “It'll kind of be a committee thing,” Fangio said. ... RBs coach Curtis Modkins will miss his second straight game while in COVID-19 safety protocol.
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