Denver Broncos WR Courtland Sutton is Russell Wilson's solution in pressure situations

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- So far during Denver Broncos training camp, when quarterback Russell Wilson is in trouble he consistently turns to one receiver.

When he's flustered, hurried and chased off his spot, when he really, really needs a completion, Wilson looks to Courtland Sutton.

"[Sutton] and I, we've had some good battles already, getting each other better," said Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II. "... [Wilson] has thrown a lot to [Sutton] when we've been battling."

Sutton traces some of the connection with Wilson to their trip to California with several teammates shortly after the Broncos acquired Wilson. There they got in some extra practice and that -- along with the extra meetings and an extra daily walk-through Wilson has organized -- has helped speed up chemistry.

"We got to go out there for a few days with him and it's stealing reps," Sutton said. "We had the small meetings of talking about the small things and everybody being on the same page. ... We were able to work on red zone stuff, and we were able to work on tempo things. We were able to work on those things with it just being us and not being a coach-led thing. It was just us as an offense out there, communicating with each other and saying, 'This is what I see.' Asking Russ, 'How do you like this route ran versus this defense? If we get pressed, how do you want us to run this route? If they're off, how do you want us to run this route?' Those are all very valuable reps and very valuable times to be able to build those relationships."

Sutton's willingness to fight for the ball in contested situations has caught Wilson's eye and will be needed following the season-ending injury to receiver Tim Patrick. In a recent practice when the Broncos' offense faced a third-and-14 situation during a two-minute drill, Wilson found Sutton up the left sideline for 35 yards. In another, the offense was in a third-down situation during a red zone drill, Wilson was forced out of the pocket and quickly found Sutton, who saw Wilson on the move and turned to make things easier on Wilson.

Coach Nathaniel Hackett saw one play in which Wilson and Sutton turned a high-stress moment into an improvisational play that worked because of that chemistry. It led to a touchdown one play later.

"That was pretty cool," Hackett said. "We had something that we wanted to get to there, but [there was] a little miscommunication which turned into a different play that we didn't know was going to happen. Sometimes, that's how great plays happen -- a brand-new play. Courtland, wow, [he] ran a beautiful route. I love how he flattened it, and Russ did a great job. We had protection up front, and [Wilson] snuck to the left and got explosive."

Day after day there have been moments like this.

"Obviously, Court has that leadership," Wilson said. "... And the work he and a lot of the guys did in San Diego, you can see that in our practices. When I looked at all of the games from last season right after the trade, it was easy to see what Court could do, all of the wide receivers, Court, Tim, Jerry [Jeudy], it was one of the reasons I was so excited about what we can do as an offense."

Since reaching the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement following the 2019 season, Sutton has struggled to return to form. He tore his ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season, and the Broncos' offensive woes last season dragged Sutton down as well. He had two or fewer receptions in eight of the team's final 10 games, almost as inexplicable as Jeudy finishing the season without a touchdown catch. Sutton had 120 and 94 yards receiving during back-to-back weeks in October but didn't have more than 68 yards receiving in any games for the remainder of the season and had fewer than 41 yards receiving in nine of those games.

"Russ is going to change that for all of those guys," tackle Garett Bolles- said. "... I've said, you just watch that ball fly and you're like, 'Man, that's nice.' It's fun. And the ball is going to go to the right people at the right time."

"It's us having the player-led meetings, us having those extra meetings of just sitting down and watching practice, just Russ and the skill guys and Russ and the offense outside of the meetings that we already have to have, it's allowing us to be able to learn the offense to a different level," Sutton said. "Understanding the why to what we're doing and not just, 'This is what I have to do.' ... I just want to be a reliable guy for Russ on every play."