The Denver Broncos lost another top receiving threat to injury for quarterback Russell Wilson after the Week 1 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Tight end Greg Dulcich suffered what initially appeared to be a leg injury on the opening drive after halftime and didn’t return.
According to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter, Dulcich is expected to miss multiple weeks with a hamstring injury.
Dulcich was expected to play a significant role in the passing game under new head coach Sean Payton. The second-year tight end missed seven games in 2022 because of an injury to the same hamstring.
Dulcich Expected to be a Breakout Player in 2023
Last season, Dulcich displayed a vertical ability that could have been utilized dangerously in Payton’s offense.
During his rookie campaign, the 2022 third-rounder caught 33 passes for 411 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 12.5 yards per reception.
According to Kevin Patra of NFL.com, the writer listed Dulcich as a possible Pro Bowl candidate in 2023.
“It’s pure projection to predict Dulcich will make a massive leap after catching 33 passes for 411 yards and two TDs in his rookie season,” Patra wrote on August 31. “But the talent is there. The TE owns dynamic run-after-catch and vertical ability to become a force in Sean Payton’s offense. With depth questions at receiver, Dulcich could earn more targets early in the season on his way to a breakout sophomore campaign.”
Payton’s vision for Dulcich this offseason was to become the “joker” at his position beyond his typical TE duties.
“The ‘joker’ player for us is not a receiver,” Payton said to reporters on Thursday, June 1. “It’s either a running back or a tight end with exceptional ball skills and then you can work matchups. We’ve had that at the running back position]. Reggie Bush was the ‘joker,’ Darren Sproles and [Alvin Kamara. Those were all unique players, not just in the running game, but they had passing game skill sets that allowed you to do multiple things, and I think Greg does, too.”
Dulcich has played in 11 career games for the Broncos, starting seven. The former UCLA Bruin was a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award (which goes to the nation’s top tight end) in 2021.
Who Steps up for Dulcich?
The Broncos have had a rough start to the 2023 campaign injury-wise, particularly on offense.
On July 21, Denver lost wide receiver Tim Patrick for the season with a torn Achilles.
Then, WR Jerry Jeudy missed the season opener due to a hamstring injury. His status as of September 12 is uncertain ahead of Week 2.
On the Broncos depth chart are veterans Adam Trautman and Chris Manhertz. Trautman started against the Raiders and finished with five receptions for 34 yards. Manhertz wasn’t targeted in the one-point loss.
If the Broncos look for outside help, they could turn to free agent veteran Jared Cooks, who played under Payton on the New Orleans Saints from 2019-20.
Cooks earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2019 after he caught nine touchdowns in 14 games with the Saints. He last played for the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2021 season.
Denver appears set to manage the injury for now. The team could shift their focus to free agency or the waiver wire should they seek depth until Dulcich returns.
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