The Broncos had some holes in their defense, especially at outside cornerback, heading into the 2021 offseason. So, instead of picking up a quarterback in the draft, they selected the cornerback with the biggest wingspan, Patrick Surtain II. Even though the Broncos spent some money on corners in free agency, they figured since Patrick Mahomes is still young, they wanted to get someone in who can guarantee to take a playmaker away from the offense in the AFC West. Everyone knows how important takeaways are in this league. The Broncos feel that Surtain is the guy to do it, and we’ve already seen a glimpse of what he can do in preseason.
The University of Alabama alum stands at 6-foot-2, weighing 202 pounds, with 32.5-inch arms, a 78-inch wingspan, 4.41 speed, with a 39-inch vertical. Surtain’s play-strength at the catch point is where he impresses most. He ended his college career with 82 solo tackles, 6 TFL, 4 interceptions and 24 passes defensed. Interestingly enough, the pick-six he had in college was the same type of pick-six he acquired in his first preseason game in the NFL.
He’s already making an impact on the stat sheet throughout preseason totaling 4 tackles, 2 passes defensed and 1 interception. What’s so good about Surtain, as you can see above, is his ability to watch the backfield while relying on his athletic ability to keep up with the receiver so he can make a play on or off the ball. In the underneath zone (below) , when defending an in-route, he only takes a few steps back, keeping his hips square while watching where the quarterback is looking.
It’s impressive to see a guy trust his eyes while having the athletic ability to stay home as he reads the developing play. With Surtain’s size and speed, it’s actually tough finding a weak spot in his game. When watching the all-22 he immerses himself into plays because he can keep his head on a swivel which matches perfectly in any zone coverage.
There is just something special about a guy with fluid hips, speed and size; just watch how Surtain mirrors receivers with ease. (below)
The Broncos want to see how much they can trust Surtain, so in Week 2 of the preseason, they lined him up one on one on the outside (below). His job was to make sure he didn’t get beat off the line of scrimmage leaving the receiver with space on the outside.
The receiver tried to jab step inside to force Surtain to open his hips which would put him off balance at the break but he didn’t budge. While the receiver was in his stem, Surtain maintained good spacing, by extending his arm, keeping him squared up to the receiver as he gets to the top of his route.
Where Surtain is already showing his worth and star quality is in the man coverage. The Broncos plan to use him to cover the best tight ends in the division and with his height alone, he can defend the Travis Kelce’s and Darren Waller’s of the AFC West, who the Broncos see twice a year. The Kansas City Chiefs use Kelce so much that if the Broncos can take away his threat, it could be game changing.
Surtain has every trait required to excel in Vic Fangio’s coverage concepts. Fangio can line him up in press-man coverage and in underneath zone coverage where he can use his closing speed Surtain has the all-around physicality at the catch point, play strength when making tackles and most importantly, off-the-ball acumen to be in the right place at the right time. If Surtain doesn’t pick the passes off himself, he creates opportunities where his teammates will. It’s a fact that passes defensed often turn into interceptions. The Broncos made the right pick in Surtain and we are all seeing it unfold It usually takes time for the game to slow down before players begin anticipating interceptions but Patrick Surtain II is already ahead of the game.