|11-29-2007, 06:44 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Luck? Scheffler will take it
Acrobatic catch against Bears not an isolated case
By Lee Rasizer, Rocky Mountain News
Go ahead and call it luck.
The leaping, one-handed, football-batting, lap-crunching effort by Tony Scheffler in the end zone with two defenders hanging on him Sunday in Chicago sure appeared to have some divine intervention attached.
One thing you can label the touchdown by the Broncos tight end with certainty, though, is this: The best catch of his nascent NFL career, or any other level of football.
It might even surpass any glove work he did during his baseball days in college and high school.
"A lot of people can say it was luck, but I got my hand on it, saw it all the way down and was able to get it between my legs and squeeze them," Scheffler said. "If you want to call that luck, I don't know how many people are that lucky."
And given Scheffler's two seasons with the Broncos, perhaps he was due for some good fortune.
This was supposed to be the second-year pro's breakout season from the start. One misstep at May minicamp, his left foot snapped, and everything changed. He rehabilitated in training camp and didn't have a catch for the first month.
But during the past seven games, he has made 28 catches, including three touchdowns - with Sunday's highlight-film entry the latest.
"It's up there, isn't it?" quarterback Jay Cutler said with a smile. "He kind of did that last year in San Diego when he tipped that one up in the air and made an acrobatic catch. He's got good body control, great hands, sees the ball well. And he wants to make big catches for us. I think that's the most important part. He wants the ball and has a good feel for coverages, knows when he's going to be open and knows when I'm going to go to him."
Late in 2006, when Cutler first was getting his feet wet as a starter, it coincided with Scheffler's eventual breakthrough into the regular playing rotation. And the two had an instant rapport.
Yet with the time Scheffler missed in minicamps and during summer practices, it gave the quarterback time to broaden his horizons, while at the same time the stars didn't seem particularly aligned for his close friend.
Nate Jackson emerged as a go-to player in two-tight-end sets, paired with Daniel Graham. Scheffler languished.
It wasn't until Jackson's season-ending groin injury Oct. 7 that Scheffler got another chance to make important, game-changing receptions.
"These past two years have been kind of a roller-coaster ride for myself," said Scheffler, who made another leaping reception against the Bears that resulted in a seasonlong 41-yard gain. "You've just got to keep a positive attitude and never lose faith in yourself and what you can do. But it is tough. Last year, being inactive and coming in and out of the lineup, then breaking my foot, every guy I'm sure has the same story. . . . But as long as you're on that active roster, you have a chance."
The Broncos (5-6) have been using Scheffler extensively split wide in three-wide looks heading into the game Sunday at Oakland. They have taken him off the line, where he has emerged as a capable if not dominant blocker. And they have allowed him to use his speed and size as mismatches on cornerbacks and safeties down the deep seam off a free release.
"When he broke his foot, it set him back a lot, and it took him a few weeks to get going once the season started," tight ends coach Pat McPherson said. "But I think he's really coming along. His confidence is sky-high, which is huge. He's a better blocker, and he still has a long ways to go as far as that's concerned. And it's just a year in the system. He knows what he's doing a little more."
Scheffler's first big contribution came on special teams, when he blocked a punt in the San Diego loss Oct. 7. Then, on Sunday Night Football on Oct. 21, his 1-yard touchdown gave the Broncos a two-touchdown cushion in an eventual victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was the first of three games in the past six weeks he has had at least five catches.
Scheffler's 82 yards against the Bears are a career best.
"Last year, me, Tony and 'B-Marsh' were just kind of running around, trying to make plays, not sure of what was going on," Cutler said, referring to receiver Brandon Marshall, who also is in his second year. "It's taken Tony a little bit longer than me and 'B' because of his foot. . . . We kind of expected it, but we knew it would take a little bit longer. It's just good to have him back out there making plays for us."
There were times, Scheffler admitted, he had doubts about whether he could contribute full time this season. He talked about playing a million scenarios in his head when things weren't going well.
But when he turned the corner physically as September ended and could run unimpeded by soreness, it was the first major step.
And things finally are playing out the way he envisioned when he put up an 18.4-yards-per-catch average and four touchdowns the last four weeks last season.
"That's why they chose me in the second round, to come in here and make plays, to catch the ball and make big catches like that in the fourth quarter," he said.
"As an NFL player, that's what you dream about at night. It's why you play the game. It feels good to be back out there and helping the team out. I just have to find a way to be that guy for 16 games."
With a little luck, perhaps he can in the near future.
|11-29-2007, 08:39 AM||#3|
Producer of Nonsense
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Sun and Beachville
|11-29-2007, 08:52 AM||#4|
True Orange & Blue
Join Date: Jul 2006
Don't need him to be a dominate blocker. The man has skills running routes and catching the ball.