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Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton deserves an apology

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

A little more than two months ago, I wrote on this site that it was time for Courtland Sutton to put up or shut up.

At the time, we were a couple weeks into training camp and Sutton had more drops than I could count on one hand, and he hadn’t made any real standout plays to speak of during practice. Fresh off a mid-practice fight with Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos second-year wideout was, in my estimation, at a tipping point in his career. He could either fix the glaring issues he was struggling with and take a massive leap forward or become the next Devin Smith, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jordan Matthews or Cody Latimer.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure he’d be able to up his game and live up to expectations based solely on what I watched every day in practice.

I was wrong.

Through five games, Sutton has racked up more than 400 yards and scored three touchdowns. That puts him on pace for around 1,500 yards and 10 scores on a team in the bottom 12 on offense in the league. Not a bad season for a second-year, No. 2 wide receiver.

Frankly, that’s not a bad season for a top-tier receiver in the NFL. Last year, those numbers would have placed Sutton firmly in the top 10 in both categories, better than the likes of Michael Thomas, Adam Thielen, Julio Jones and many others. All things considered, Sutton’s first handful of games this year has been extremely impressive.

Our own Zach Bye went so far yesterday as to say Sutton is on his way to becoming a “superstar.” Maybe Reggie Wayne was right when he said the young wideout was “not just the future of the Broncos, but the future of the NFL.” It didn’t seem like it in August, but now that wild prediction seems more like a prophecy.

That’s exactly what the Broncos need right now. In a time of transition (yes, that’s what this is), the more young and talented pieces they can accumulate, the better. Vic Fangio and the rest of the staff had that in Justin Simmons, Phillip Lindsay and Bradley Chubb. Now, it sure seems like they have another budding star to add to that list, potentially right at the top.

With that in mind, it makes the decision to get rid of some expiring veteran contracts (Sanders in particular) much easier. At some point, you have to let the young guys step into a leadership role. With a new coach and a collection of young talent, that time is now. From all indications coming out of the locker room at Dove Valley, Sutton is the guy that should be at the top of the list; he checks all the boxes. He’s just waiting for his chance to take the reins.

Will there be some hiccups and bumps along the way? Of course. That’s to be expected. Will it be worth it in the end? Most definitely.

If you had asked me at the beginning of August what I expected from Sutton this year, I would have told you “very little.” That’s the exact opposite of how this season has played out so far. There’s plenty of time left for him to come back down to earth, but at this rate, I wouldn’t bet against his success.

Courtland Sutton answered the bell and the Broncos are going to be much better off for it.