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'There's obviously learning in everything': After late-season surge, TE Lucas Krull could be poised to take next step in career

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Lucas Krull was ready for the moment.

The play did not end the way he hoped, but that doesn't mean he didn't welcome the opportunity.

The late-game pass to the end zone — just the second target of Krull's young career — did not end up in the second-year player's hands for a game-winning score in Houston. Instead, Texans safety Jimmie Ward came up with a crucial interception that snapped the Broncos' five-game winning streak.

But as Krull looks back now, he believes the difficulty of that moment spurred him to make strides over the remainder of the 2023 season.

"I was ready," Krull said Tuesday. "I was ready. I was super excited. I knew I was going to have an opportunity for that ball. Obviously it just went to the wrong person. At the end of the day, I've got to find a way to come down with that. I grew a lot from that moment, and it helped me every day."

Krull rebounded from the loss in Houston to post at least one catch in each of his next four games. He finished the season with eight catches for 95 yards, and he got into the end zone in Week 16 against the Patriots.

With the Broncos trying to piece together a late-game comeback, Krull faced another opportunity to make a contested end-zone catch. And against New England, he made the play.

"When you fail, there's obviously learning in everything," Krull said. "To be able to just take that [experience] and bounce back and [do] everything I can to help this team and be the player I am for this team and this coaching staff, that's really all I can ask [for]."

Krull credits his improvement, in part, to the time he spent on the Broncos' practice squad last season. He signed to the practice squad in late August and spent half the season with the group before first being elevated to the active roster for a Week 10 game vs. Buffalo.

"Really just keeping my head down and working as hard as I can," said Krull when asked how he improved last year. "Busting my tail every day at practice. When I was on [the] practice squad, treating it as if it was a game. Taking all those reps, every rep I can, just diving in to every opportunity. Just pushing myself and obviously getting practice squad reps and going against the starting defense, you're going against the best of the best."

Krull said the experience vs. the starting defense helped him build confidence, and as the Broncos near the end of their offseason program, Krull could be poised to take the next step in his career. He made a strong impression early in OTAs, leading to Head Coach Sean Payton telling the young player that people would soon know his name.

"I [told him], 'If you didn't notice, everyone in the media was looking down at their rosters to see who [No.] 85 was,'" Payton said on May 23. "I said, 'Someday soon, they're going to know who 85 is.' He's looking sharp."

Payton later complimented Krull's speed and 6-foot-6 stature as elements that he likes about the tight end's game.

"He's young, so we think there is room to grow," Payton said on June 4. "That was one of the reasons we signed him. So these camps benefit certain players — like I said the other day — a little bit more than others, because you can get into your patterns and see some things.

"So he's doing well."

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