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Film Room: Rookie CB Patrick Surtain II Has Been Everything Broncos Hoped

Through three weeks, Patrick Surtain II has been as advertised.
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The Denver Broncos had high hopes when they selected cornerback Patrick Surtain II ninth overall in the 2021 NFL draft. Through three weeks of the season, the rookie has looked every bit like the star Denver expected.

While Surtain did struggle a little bit in Week 1, he has bounced back strong in the past two games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets. In those two starts, he allowed a completion percentage of just 58.3% while also coming down with his first career interception.

I have been extremely impressed with the young cornerback's play the past two weeks and decided to jump into the film room on his hot start. Let's take a look. 

Playing Fast & Confident

Surtain was widely considered the safest cornerback in the draft (and with good reason). He is an athletic freak who plays with a great understanding of technique. He is also one of those confident players despite his reserved demeanor.

In this game against the Jaguars, Surtain played with excellent technique, and his confidence allowed him to break on passes and make some plays on the ball. This first clip is a great example of something called 'zone eyes.'

Surtain's zone is the underneath flat, but he knows that the Jaguars have a long way to get to the first down. While he is still in position to play the flat, he drifts in his zone closer to the first-down marker. This positioning, along with keeping his eyes on the quarterback, allows him to break on this deep out and get the pass breakup.

Press-Man? No Problem

Surtain wasn't just great in zone coverage either, as he excelled in press-man all game long. This next clip may be my favorite of the game despite it being a play where he wasn't targeted.

I love his patience at the line of scrimmage, as he tries to throw off the receiver's timing by flashing his hand early. This causes the receiver to take an outside release, which puts the receiver right where Surtain wants him. Surtain then establishes inside positioning, which allows him to sit all over the receiver when he tries to do a double move to the outside.

The Jaguars tried to take some shots at Surtain late in the game to no avail. This next clip was almost disastrous for him, but he does a great job of recovering down the field.

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Recovery

Surtain's confidence almost gets the best of him here as he doesn't play the vertical shot figuring the offense wouldn't attack him that way in off-man coverage. He bites just enough on the double move and the receiver gets a bit of separation. Surtain does an outstanding job of recovering, though, and makes himself big at the catch point to obstruct the receiver's view.

A big part of evaluating young cornerbacks is how they respond when they're initially beat. Surtain didn't panic one bit here, which is exactly what you want to see.

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Making Them Pay

Just a few plays later, the Jaguars try the exact same shot play in a similar situation. Surtain, in off-man coverage yet again, makes the Jaguars pay this time.

Surtain doesn't hesitate like he did on the play prior. He sits on the vertical route and does a perfect job of pinching the receiver to the sideline. Once he is in a good position, he calmly turns back to the throw, locates the ball, and makes an over-the-shoulder catch for the interception. An excellent play down the field and I love seeing the growth from clip one to clip two.

Surtain is showing no signs of panic early in his rookie year. The killer for young cornerbacks in the NFL typically is the tendency to get grabby down the field and the inability to play the ball.

No Panic

He played this broken-play vertical shot perfectly against the Jets. He initially takes away the deep option, but the play quickly breaks down in the backfield. The QB fires it downfield as Surtain's receiver gains a little separation. Rather than grabbing or going for the ball, Surtain calmly attacks the hands of the receiver as the ball comes down. The result is a big-time incompletion on third down.

The final clip isn't anything too crazy, just a great way to showcase Surtain's closing speed out of zone coverage. He gets to his zone drop and then quickly transitions downhill on the underneath completion. He closes in on the receiver and makes a sure tackle to limit yards after the catch.

Bottom Line

There was a bit of controversy on draft night when the Broncos selected Surtain instead of a quarterback. While it certainly would have been nice to get a quarterback of the future, the consolation prize appears to be pretty good thus far.

Surtain is playing with a high level of confidence at the moment and is flying all over the field as a result. He is also excelling in zone, off-man, and press-man which is super impressive for a young player.

Will this high level of play continue against better offenses? I'm confident that it can. There will likely be more rookie mistakes against better teams, but he can continue this play.

Overall, Surtain looks every bit like a future star at the cornerback position. Even the fans who wanted Justin Fields or Mac Jones in the draft can agree that Surtain has exceeded expectations early on and has been an impressive part of the Broncos' defense through the first three weeks.


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