Gaffney thriving in Broncos offense
Published: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 12:25 a.m.
JACKSONVILLE — Like many Florida wide receivers entering the NFL, Jabar Gaffney had enormous expectations.
Unlike the many who were crushed by that pressure, Gaffney stands among the few who have shined at the next level.
Now in his ninth year as a pro, his career has never looked brighter.
Gaffney is coming off a season in which he recorded career-highs in receptions (54) and receiving yards (732).
“Me and (quarterback) Kyle (Orton) have been hitting on things, seeing things the same a lot in OTAs and training camp,” said Gaffney, who had an eight-yard touchdown in front of his hometown fans in Jacksonville last week. “We’re pretty much on the same page.”
Gaffney put the cap on his stellar season with his best performance, which came in last year’s season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs. With a shot at the playoffs on the line and former Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall suspended, Gaffney had 14 catches for 213 yards in a losing effort.
Nonetheless, the receiving yards were one shy of the team record set by Shannon Sharpe in 2002 and the second most in an NFL game in 2009.
“I try to just be that reliable guy,” said Gaffney, who accounted for 36 first downs last year. “Whenever we need to pass, if you throw it my way, I’m going to catch it.”
It’s safe to say Orton believes that statement whole-heartedly.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Gaffney may have had the catch of the year after a one-handed grab that he secured against his shoulder pad against Kansas City.
Orton ended up targeting Gaffney 19 times in the game.
“I’ve always been known to catch the passes that come my way,” Gaffney said. “That’s the thing I’m big on. I hate dropping passes.”
Since he entered the league, there have been huge expectations on Gaffney.
After the expansion Texans took quarterback David Carr with their first selection in the 2002 NFL Draft, Houston used its second-round pick to take Gaffney.
His precise route-running, excellent hands and ability to pick up yards after the catch made him a dependable weapon in Houston and later New England.
In 2007, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — with numerous weapons at his disposal in the highest scoring offense in NFL history — still found Gaffney 36 times for 449 yards and five touchdowns, including one in the AFC Championship win over the San Diego Chargers.
Despite his consistency and knack for pointing at the name on the back of his jersey after scores, Gaffney goes largely unnoticed.
“Overrated and underrated, that’s just stuff for everybody else,” said Gaffney, who has at least 400 receiving yards in seven of his eight seasons. “I know what I can do, and my teammates and my coaches, they all have confidence in me.”
That’s why Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who was the offensive coordinator of that record-setting Patriots offense, brought Gaffney to Denver after being hired as head coach. Their familiarity with one another helped Gaffney’s stellar season.
There have been 27 Florida wide receivers chosen in the past 26 NFL drafts, and few of them have met expectations. A new wave of Gator wideouts including Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy, Andre Caldwell and Riley Cooper have already started to shed the stigma surrounding Florida receivers in the pros.
Gaffney has already done his part. Now he can help a Broncos wide receiving corps flying under the radar.
“I guess nobody really expects us to do too much,” Gaffney said. “So there’s not really a lot of pressure. We’ll just take that, relax and go.”
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