BRON­COS

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Kyle Fredrick­son: kfredrick­son@den­ver­post.com or @kyle­fredrick­son

were many. Heuer­man, a 2015 third­round NFL draft pick, missed his rookie sea­son with a torn ACL. He started two games the fol­low­ing year and six last sea­son. Vet­eran Bron­cos tight end Vir­gil Green signed with the Charg­ers in March and 2017 fifth­round NFL draft pick Jake Butt tore his ACL in Septem­ber. It’s all led to a more prom­i­nent role for Heuer­man.

“It’s been awe­some get­ting out there and play­ing just about ev­ery snap,” Heuer­man said. “With the pass­ing game, it’s been good, but it can be bet­ter. We can all be bet­ter on of­fense.”

Heuer­man show­cased a knack in the pass­ing game through four years at Ohio State with 52 re­cep­tions for 792 yards and seven touch­downs. He has stud­ied all the NFL greats on tape to as­sist in that de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing for­mer Cow­boy Ja­son Wit­ten, who Heuer­man de­scribed as not the “flashy, fast, shake­youout­of­your­shoes kind of guy — but he had a real knack for run­ning routes and find­ing where and how to get open.”

“It’s all part of play­ing your po­si­tion and mas­ter­ing your craft,” Heuer­man con­tin­ued. “We spend a good amount of time on both catch­ing and block­ing. That’s one of the things that makes the tight end posi­ tion so unique — be­ing able to do both.”

Den­ver’s tight ends room fea­tures three ac­tive play­ers — Heuer­man, Matt LaCosse and Brian Parker — all no older than 26. Heuer­man’s ex­pe­ri­ence tops the group and it shows from the prac­tice field to game day.

“Jeff has done a great job of lead­ing by ex­am­ple,” LaCosse said. “You can see that the coaches have con­fi­dence in him and we have con­fi­dence in him. He’s def­i­nitely proven him­self a blocker and he’s made plays in the pass game. His yards af­ter catch have been pretty im­pres­sive this year.”

Heuer­man is a long way off from repli­cat­ing the last dom­i­nant Den­ver tight end, Julius Thomas, who hauled in 24 touch­downs be­tween 2013 and ’14. Coach Vance Joseph said Heuer­man is “do­ing a good job, so we’ll see as we move for­ward how much more (of a re­ceiv­ing role) he gets.” The Rams al­lowed Oak­land tight end Jared Cook nine catches for 180 yards in the sea­son opener. A sim­i­lar per­for­mance from Heuer­man on Sun­day would help give life to a reg­u­larly slug­gish of­fense.

Heuer­man lacks no con­fi­dence.

“We’re dy­namic and we’ve got the play­mak­ers,” Heuer­man said. “We’ve just got to ex­e­cute bet­ter.”

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