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Published on 05/23/2011 at Mon May 23 19:49.
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Royal has done a great job of protecting the football since arriving in Denver. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Broncos wide receiver Eddie Royal has played with five different quarterbacks through his first three years in Denver (Cutler, Ramsey, Simms, Orton and Tebow).  Despite that, Royal quickly became a fan favorite among Bronco fans after his stellar rookie season in which he caught 91 passes for 980 yards and 5 scores.

His production dropped in year two (as did his opportunities to contribute) but he did manage to return two kicks for touchdowns.  Last season, he put up respectable numbers with 59 catches going for 627 yards and 3 scores.  Denver is hoping he returns to rookie form this season (statistically speaking), and he certainly has the ability and desire to meet that goal.

While he hasn’t scored dozens of touchdowns or made the Pro Bowl (yet), Royal has been Mr. Reliable, as Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus discovered when breaking down receivers’ drop percentages from last season.  Among receivers who caught 50 or more passes last season, Royal’s 3.28% drop percentage (DP) ranked 5th in the NFL — but that didn’t satisfy Royal.

“You’d think I would be happy about it… but I’m still mad about the two I dropped,” said Royal on his facebook fan page Monday afternoon.

Further stat researching showed that Royal has had a great DP since his rookie season.  From 2008-2010, Royal ranked third among all NFL receivers who caught 120 passes or more during that time span with a 4.59% DP.  Interestingly, Royal’s former teammate and current Miami Dolphins’ receiver Brandon Marshall had a 11.28% DP during that same amount of time, ranking him among the bottom 10 and 37th overall.

Last season, Broncos Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd ranked 8th with a 4.94% percentage, which is surprising as Elsayed has pointed out, since the catches tend to be a bit harder the further down field you go and many of Lloyd’s catches were acrobatic ones.  Meanwhile, Marshall ranked 46th with an ugly 13.13% percentage.


Robert Ayers #56 and Jason Hunter #52 of the Denver Broncos celebrate after a defensive stop against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on October 3, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. Denver won 26-20. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Moving on to another subject, Scouts Inc.‘s Matt Williamson says Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers could be poised to have a breakout season.  Ayers showed vast improve last season (especially against the run), and Williamson expects that carry over into next season (or whenever the next season is).

Ayers is a sturdy end who can secure the edge in the run game. As of right now, he is better versus the run than the pass, but he does have some upside as a pass-rusher. He should benefit from the attention that Elvis Dumervil will demand on the opposite side on most downs and surely the attention that rookie Von Miller will command as a pass-rusher on throwing downs.

When Miller does line up with his hand on the ground, Ayers could potentially take on a Justin Tuck-like role as a tough interior pass-rusher who can out-quick his slower interior offensive line opponent. But so far, Ayers has recorded only one and a half sacks in his three seasons in the league. Obviously that isn’t good enough. If Denver adds a defensive tackle or two in free agency with pass-rush skills, Ayers could find himself as a two-down player.

While I do agree that Ayers, who will be returning to the position he played throughout all of his collegiate career, could breakout this year, Williamson lost some credibility with me when he (a) said fellow defensive end Elvis Dumervil “missed time” last year with a knee injury (when in fact he actually missed the entire season after he tore a pectoral muscle in Training Camp) and when he (b) said Ayers has played three years in the league (he is actually entering his third).

Royal has been clutch and if Denver gives him the chance, he should have a great 2011 campaign (assuming there is one).  Ayers may never live up to his 1st round expectations, but I expect him to show improvement over time.