Broncos’ Patrick Surtain II Looks to Even Score With College Rival in Week 2

Patrick Surtain Broncos

Getty Broncos rookie CB Patrick Surtain II is slated for his first career start on September 19, 2021.

Even with the news that the Denver Broncos will be without high-end starting talent for at least the next three weeks, there isn’t much outward concern.

That has a lot to do with the ‘next man up’ mentality and the deserved kudos to general manager George Paton for stockpiling talent.

ALL the latest Broncos news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Broncos newsletter here!

Starting cornerback Ronald Darby is out at least the next three weeks, which means rookie Patrick Surtain II is slated to start when the Broncos (1-0) head to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars (0-1) on September 19.

Higher Stakes This Time

Surtain II, the No. 9 overall pick, will be entwined once again with Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 draft. The two have a brief competitive history, as Surtain II’s Alabama Crimson Tide and Lawrence’s Clemson Tigers tangled in the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship.

The Tigers ended up winning in convincing fashion, 44-16, a rare blowout loss in the Nick Saban era.

“Yeah, I started that game. We were both freshmen at the time — both young pups,” Surtain II said at his September 15 post-practice press conference. “He got the edge on us. We had our fair share of battles here and there.”

Lawrence walked away with the national championship, following a near-perfect evening (20-of-32, 347 yards, three touchdown passes), while Surtain was a non-factor, credited with a single tackle.

Advantage, Lawrence, that night. But while that NCAA matchup was certainly huge for their respective collegiate careers at the time, it’s likely this Week 2 tilt in Jacksonville will hold more weight. Both rookies have lots to prove, despite their lofty draft statuses, especially after their NFL debuts were up-and-down affairs.

The rookie quarterback threw three interceptions in his NFL debut, while the rookie cornerback was on the wrong end of a highlight against the New York Giants.

Must Play Better

Surtain II only logged 16 snaps in the Broncos’ 27-13 season-opening road win over the Giants, on September 12.

Head coach Vic Fangio readily admitted after the Giants game that it would’ve been nice to have gotten his prized rookie on the field more, but made it sound as if Surtain II’s lack of action was mainly situationally and personnel-grouping dependent.

“Well, the plan was we were going to give him a series in the first half,” Fangio explained during his September 13 press conference. “Then, the third quarter, we drove the ball a pretty good ways, timewise, so we went out there for the first [defensive] series … and then the next time we were out on the field I believe it was the fourth quarter, so we just decided to finish it that way, because we might be playing more dime.”

When further pressed, Fangio reiterated that Surtain II is “too good of a player to only play in the dime package.” The coach also reasoned the rookie “deserves to play some, so we’re going to play him some.”

That was before the news broke of Darby being placed on short-term IR, so the learning curve for the neophyte was expedited in a matter of hours. Surtain II won’t be a victim of circumstance this time around, as he will be slated to play more against the Jaguars — a far cry from the opener when his reps accounted for a paltry 26% of the team’s defensive snaps.

But even when he was on the field, the rookie’s performance had much to be desired. It was Surtain II who allowed the Giants’ first touchdown of the game, a 37-yard reception from wideout Sterling Shepard, as the rookie took a bad angle on the tackle attempt. That was preceded by lagging coverage on the crossing route that enabled Shepard to roam through the secondary with ease.

Patrick Surtain II

GettyDenver Broncos CB Patrick Surtain II on NFL draft night.

The coach said as much, noting that Surtain II’s technique needs some polishing.

“He needs to be tighter on that one, for sure,” Fangio said. “We could have helped him out in a couple of other instances on that play that would have made that pick-up a little easier. But he does have to be tighter on it.”

The player, meanwhile, appears to be a quick study, as he basically echoed Fangio’s sentiments, sounding as if the message has been drilled into his head since the game ended.

“I could’ve squeezed it better,” Surtain II said. “I should’ve known that route was coming based on his [Shepard’s] stem. I could’ve squeezed it and initiated it earlier and just had tighter coverage on it.”

The rookie has gotten rave reviews since Day 1 for his football intellect, poise, and ability to quickly pick up Fangio’s scheme. So, there should be little doubt in the Broncos’ locker room and in Broncos Country that Surtain II has learned from his maiden mistakes and is up for the challenge of finally besting Lawrence.

Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8

Read More