From an individual perspective, Tony Scheffler has experienced a Matterhorn-like peak and a Mojave Desert-esque valley, all in the span of two months.
In August, he was prolific. Playing frequently with the first team, he finished second in the NFL in receiving yards per game among tight ends, averaging 44.3 yards in the three games in which he took part. Only New England’s Benjamin Watson had more, and no other tight end averaged more than 35 yards a game in this year’s preseason.
Since the regular season started, though, Scheffler’s numbers have shrunk. From nine catches for 133 yards in the preseason to two grabs for 16 yards in the five regular-season games, Scheffler’s receptions have grown all the more scant.
“Being so successful in preseason and able to make plays and kind of getting off to a tough start in (September) has been the hardest part of the regular season,” Scheffler said. “I’m not really doing anything different. It’s just kind of not going my way and it’s kind of frustrating to find and correct that problem.”
Added Head Coach Mike Shanahan: “Like a lot of young guys, he’s got a lot of talent. There are growing pains as a rookie. He’s going to be a great player, but it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Scheffler has, however, seen a fair amount of playing time — including occasions where he’s been the quarterback’s primary read on a play.
“There’s been some (plays where he’s been the passer’s primary read),” Scheffler said. “But whether it be rookie mistakes or just coverage not allowing for me to get the ball, there’s not that many opportunities, and when I get one, things have to go right and I have to be on top of my game and it just hasn’t happened that way yet.”
Meanwhile, he heads into Week 7 working to find answers — just like the offense as a whole.
“It’s tough,” Scheffler said, “but as a rookie, you’ve just got to keep plugging away and just hope that the next game will produce one or two breakout plays for you to kind of get you out of the rut.
“(I have to) just keep studying, keep learning the game plan and hopefully pretty soon things will start going my way and I’ll start helping the team out.”
He’ll do it with some pressure on his shoulders — but he welcomes that. After all, pressure doesn’t exist without the expectations to spawn it in the first place.
“There’s always a little bit of pressure to perform, especially when you come in and are expected to help out the team,” Scheffler said. “It’s something that I think helps fuel me to keep pushing away and getting better.”