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Mile High Morning: KJ Hamler among PFF's best second-year performers through preseason

The Lead

After reaching the end zone in back-to-back preseason games, WR KJ Hamler is starting to look like the player he was projected to be when Denver drafted him in the second round in 2020.

Following an explosive training camp during which Hamler has put his striking speed and big-play potential on full display, the former Penn State talent has earned a spot on Pro Football Focus' list of best second-year player performances through the first two weeks of the preseason.

In Week 1 against the Vikings, Hamler racked up 105 yards on two catches, including an 80-yard touchdown. Against Seattle in Week 2, Hamler had only one catch, but it went for a 2-yard score.

Despite missing out on a full preseason and struggling with drops and up-and-down QB play in his first year, Hamler could be ready to step up as a potential big-time weapon for the Broncos offense.

"He was one of the biggest X-factor players in the [2020] draft," Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson said, "and we are beginning to see the potential he has in his first preseason. Hamler has already torched the Minnesota Vikings secondary for an 80-yard touchdown in his preseason debut before following that up with a much shorter touchdown reception against Seattle."

As he enters his second season in Denver, Hamler will have the benefit of a full training camp under his belt. Hamler demonstrated through camp that his speed sets him apart from the pack and his deep-threat potential adds another layer to Denver's already-loaded offensive arsenal.

"Hamler has split his time in the slot (55%) and outside (45%),and despite that two-yard touchdown pass has an average depth of target of 22.3 yards downfield," Monson said. "Hamler's speed is lethal to an NFL defense, and he is showing there is a little more to his game, as well."

Below the Fold

Safety Caden Sterns, a rookie out of Texas, has started to stand out amid a stacked Broncos secondary.

Denver boasts one of the league's best DB units, with big names like Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson leading the pack. But more than one first-year talent in the secondary could be poised to emerge as a big defensive contributor.

While CB Pat Surtain II has garnered plenty of well-deserved attention across the league for his impressive preseason play, Sterns has impressed in his own right.

According to Trickel, Sterns had two areas of his game that needed to improve if he wanted to be successful in the NFL. Sterns had struggled with both tackling and run defense in college, but in Week 1 of the preseason, he showcased his improvements in both areas in a big game vs the Vikings.

"Head coach Vic Fangio highlighted what Sterns needed to show in a game was competent tackling," Trickel said. "The rookie showed that by leading the team with six total tackles [against Minnesota], all of which were solo tackles."

In his first preseason outing, the rookie DB didn't disappoint. In fact, Sterns didn't just show improvements in those two areas; he was outright impressive.

"Coming downhill and filling the right lane was, at times, problematic for Sterns in college," Trickel said. "However, in his first NFL action, he was outstanding in that area and was a force when met in the hole. It was a game where he stood out in the two areas that were his biggest concerns."

The Unclassifieds

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