ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Each day, as the Broncos line up before practice, No. 25 and No. 10 find each other.
Melvin Gordon III and Jerry Jeudy sidle up alongside each other for the opening period of the session and launch into a series of stretches to begin the practice.
It's in those moments that they set the tone for the day.
"I always tell him, 'When we come out here today, let's set ourselves apart from everybody else,'" Gordon said of Jeudy on Thursday. "'Let's set ourselves apart, whether you make one play or a big play or two plays. Make a splash.' Jerry [says], 'Every time I get the ball, I want to make a play.'"
In the early stages of training camp, Jeudy has done just that. On Wednesday, the 2020 15th-overall pick caught three passes, including perhaps the best play of the day when he stuck his foot in the ground on third down and leapt into the air to make a reaching grab. Jeudy later added a likely touchdown under game scenarios.
It's far from surprising that Jeudy has started training camp strong. The Alabama product finished his rookie season on a high note, as he caught five passes for 140 yards, including a 92-yard touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders. Head Coach Vic Fangio has said on several occasions that he believes that game was a "defining moment" in Jeudy's career as he rebounded from several drops the previous week against the Chargers.
Jeudy continued his path toward improvement this offseason, as he racked up catches without Courtland Sutton available for team drills during OTAs and minicamp. As training camp begins, Gordon believes Jeudy is ready to continue his progression.
"I can definitely tell there's confidence there," Gordon said. "I've been talking to him. We both train in Florida as well. He's hungry, man. He doesn't feel like last year came close to anything he can show the world and what his ability is. He's coming out here and he's going to show everybody who he is."
Gordon said he can relate to Jeudy's mentality after feeling similarly dissatisfied after his own rookie season. The 2015 15th-overall pick, Gordon totaled 833 all-purpose yards and no scores in his first year with the Chargers. A year later, Gordon rushed for nearly 1,000 yards as he totaled 1,416 all-purpose yards, 12 touchdowns and his first Pro Bowl berth.
"I had a similar experience my rookie year, so I know the feeling," Gordon said. "I feel how he feels, too, and I'm sure a lot of other guys do. He's going to come out and he's going to give it everything he has — every practice, every day, in the weight room — regardless of where he is. He's going to give it everything he has so when he gets on the field, he can show people who he is. That's the same with me."
Jeudy said he feels comfortable with the work that he's put in — which included drills focusing on concentration, catching and hand strength — but he'll leave the grand proclamations to his teammates. He's written his goals for the season on his mirror at home to help sear them in his mind, but he didn't want to share the yardage or touchdown marks he hopes to hit.
"You want to manifest that. I believe in writing down your goals and trying to accomplish them," Jeudy said. "… "Just personal goals that I like to just read by myself. I don't really want to talk too much about it."
Jeudy's teammates aren't nearly as private about their expectations. Justin Simmons said Wednesday that there's "no doubt in my mind" that Jeudy could compete for an All-Pro or Pro Bowl nod.
He'll work each day to achieve those goals — and he'll have Gordon alongside him at practice to serve as a reminder of what 2021 could bring.
GORDON NOT FOCUSED ON COMPETITION
A year ago, Gordon got "too caught up" in a competition with former Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay, he said Thursday.
He's determined not to let that happen in 2021, as he works alongside second-round pick Javonte Williams and free-agent addition Mike Boone.
"At the end of the day, you always compete," Gordon said. "They will always bring someone to take your job. That's just the nature of the business. It is what it is. They brought Javonte in here to be a dog, and a dog amongst dogs. We're going to come out here and we're going to compete every day. I'm not really worried about that."
Instead, Gordon is more focused on improving his own game and putting the team in position to make the playoffs.
"When I'm coming out here, I'm thinking about what I can do to help make the team better," Gordon said. "What can I do to make myself a better player? That's what I'm going to come out here and do. [I have the] utmost confidence in myself to come out here and work, so when I touch the field, I do what I need to do when my number is called. I can't be worried about who I'm competing with. That's just the nature of the business. You're going to compete every year. I've been doing it since I've gotten in the league with [Chargers RB] Austin [Ekeler], with Phil and with everybody. I've been around some talented backs and I'm going to continue to work.
"I've always told myself to work like a free agent. Work like a free agent. Work like you came in here and you didn't have anything. That's going to always be my mindset. I'm going to always grind, and I'm going to always get it. I'm going to do what I need to do to help this team win. That's why I'm here."
Asked to elaborate about being caught up in the competition, Gordon said Lindsay's connection to Colorado made it difficult for him to step into his role in Denver.
"A lot of people love Phil here," Gordon said. "It was as if I got drafted to the Packers [as a Wisconsin native] with the how the fans would feel, how the media and how the people would feel. They feel like you're taking away from their guy. It was in my head a little bit. I got over it and I kind of dealt with what it was. I said, 'We're going to share this thing and we're going to make our plays. His number is going to get called and mine will get called. We have to go out here and make some plays.'"
Gordon ended up ahead on the stat sheet last season — he rushed for 986 yards and nine touchdowns to Lindsay's 502 yards and one touchdown — but he made sure to emphasize that he and Lindsay supported each other.
"Good dude, great dude," Gordon said. "We still talk. I wish him the best with everything he has going on."
THE STAT THAT MATTERS
Shelby Harris has been among the league leaders in batted down passes, and he's just one year removed from a career-high six sacks in 2019.
As he enters the first year of his new contract, Harris is focused on a more important stat.
"Wins," Harris said. "That's it. That's all that matters. This is a team game. This game is not set on one person, it's about wins and that's the emphasis this year. We've got to get the wins. And the big thing that Vic was talking about earlier [is] one-score games. With the way we play — we always are in one-score games, and we've got to come out on top of those. And so, we've got to start getting more W's in one-score games."
Denver went 4-6 in one-score games last season, including a 1-3 record in games decided by three points or fewer.