No bug un­der this Derby, who’s in­tent on pes­ter­ing Pats

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke

The A.J. Derby con­spir­acy the­ory posits that, in a di­a­bol­i­cal plot put in mo­tion by Bill Belichick, the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots traded the tight end to the Bron­cos to plant a spy in the Den­ver locker room. Derby is bugged, the Twit­ter the­ory as­sumes, and he is se­cretly slip­ping game plans to his for­mer coach.

“I’m not wear­ing a wire,” Derby said Fri­day, lift­ing his shirt to show no record­ing de­vices. “Ev­ery­one has a con­spir­acy when it comes to Bill. They al­ways think he’s cheat­ing at some­thing.”

In the past five years, since John El­way was hired as Den­ver’s gen­eral man­ager, the Bron­cos have the sec­ond-best record in the NFL, 66-26. They trail only the Pa­tri­ots at 72-21. Both teams earned play­off berths each of those sea­sons. They have been re­mark­ably con­sis­tent and suc­cess­ful.

So some­thing must sep­a­rate them, how­ever mi­nor. And that leads to a guess from fans as out­landishly stupid as the A.J. Derby con­spir­acy the­ory.

“I’m com­pet­i­tive,” said Derby, who was traded to Den­ver in Oc­to­ber for a fifth-round draft pick. “Ob­vi­ously, I’m ex­cited to play against them and try to do my best.”

In five games, Derby has been a nearly sure-handed re­ceiver for the Bron­cos, catch­ing 12 of 14 passes thrown his direc­tion, for an 85.7 per­cent re­cep­tion rate, the sec­ond-best on the team. But his drop late in a loss at Ten­nessee on Sun­day, when quar­ter­back Trevor Siemian found him for a would-be first down, cost the Bron­cos in a come­back at­tempt.

Derby’s ben­e­fit to the Bron­cos should be on third down. They rank 25th in the NFL with a 36.2 per­cent con­ver­sion rate. And on third-and-1, Den­ver is 31st in the NFL, mov­ing the chains just 51.6 per­cent of the time. That is largely a func­tion of the Bron­cos’ strug­gling run game, which gained just 18 yards against the Ti­tans.

“In the third-down sit­u­a­tions, that’s helped us a lit­tle bit,” Bron­cos quar­ter­backs coach Greg Knapp said of Derby. “To me, it’s al­ways about the ebb and flow of a

sea­son. Some­times there’s a need more for the tight ends.”

Derby’s trade bridges the on­go­ing ri­valry be­tween the Bron­cos and Pa­tri­ots. Belichick sac­ri­ficed him to build for the fu­ture with an ex­tra draft pick. But at the time, the Pats had the best tight end duo in the NFL, with Rob Gronkowski and Martel­lus Ben­nett. But Gronkowski is out for the sea­son af­ter back surgery ear­lier this month.

Asked about Derby this week, Belichick was curt but com­pli­men­tary — do­ing noth­ing to dis­pel the con­spir­acy the­ory.

“A smart kid, re­ally smart, good hands,” the coach said. “Works hard. No is­sues.”

In Belichick’s 17 sea­sons as coach of the Pa­tri­ots, he is 2-8 against the Bron­cos in Den­ver, in­clud­ing two losses last sea­son by a com­bined eight points. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the teams is of­ten mi­nor. Derby could be that dif­fer­ence — as much a sub­trac­tion from the Pa­tri­ots as an ad­di­tion for the Bron­cos. No dou­bleagent shenani­gans are nec­es­sary.

“We need to con­tinue to use him,” Bron­cos coach Gary Ku­biak said. “He’s done a lot of good things. We need him mak­ing plays for us. I think he’s shown the abil­ity to do that.”

A.J. Derby has been a nearly sure-handed re­ceiver for the Bron­cos, catch­ing 12 of 14 passes thrown his direc­tion. Joe Amon, The Den­ver Post

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.