Some people questioned the Denver Broncos' decision to pass on Justin Fields, a top quarterback prospect, in the 2021 NFL draft to take Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II with the ninth overall pick. Only time will tell what happens at the team's quarterback position, but one thing is clear: Surtain is making a quick impression in Broncos training camp.
Case in point: Surtain had his first interception in training camp and became the first defensive player to force a turnover against Drew Lock, the 2019 second-round pick who is out to prove he can be the long-term answer at the most important position in football.
While Surtain's play may have turned some heads, the rookie didn't have much to say about the play following Monday's training camp session.
"I just read the quarterback's eyes and I was just looking for it," Surtain said. "He sort of led me to the pick."
Watch below (Surtain's INT comes at the 7-second mark.
Surtain's college teammate Jerry Jeudy scored a touchdown on another play while he was taking the field. But Surtain said there was no banter exchanged after Jeudy's big play.
"We're just out here competing, and we're just out here getting each other better," Surtain said. "He's going to have some good plays [and] I'm going to have some good plays. At the end of the day, we're just out here getting each other better."
One can expect that Surtain will have his ups and downs, as most rookies do, but head coach Vic Fangio has noticed that the first-round pick is getting it done at multiple positions on the field.
"It’s rare that you would ask a rookie to do that, number one, and it’s rare that he’s been able to handle it and do it," Fangio said. "Now, he’s not perfected any of them yet, by any means, but we think he can and it’s not too big for him.”
Fangio noted that the Broncos played as many as six defensive backs at times, something plenty of teams do because of the way offenses are playing.
Surtain, for his part, said he is taking things day by day and continuing to learn the playbook. Still, his versatility could come in handy for the Broncos' defense this year.
His defensive teammates are taking note not only of that versatility but also the way he is handling his transition to the pros.
"He’s carrying himself with a confidence and a swag," said outside linebacker Bradley Chubb. "That’s what you love to see in a rookie, especially a DB. That position gets challenged a lot, whether it’s deep balls or guarding the best athletes in the world."
Surtain is surrounded by a lot of experienced veterans in the defensive backfield. Surtain cited cornerback Ronald Darby as a player who has given him plenty of advice.
"I'm learning from him a lot," Surtain said. "[Darby is] teaching me different techniques. He's a vet, so just learning from him helps me every single day."
No doubt Surtain can learn plenty from not only Darby, but veterans such as Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Justin Simmons, and Kareem Jackson.
Even so, much will be expected from Surtain, perhaps more so from those who thought the Broncos should have taken a quarterback. But while he knows about those high expectations, he remains focused on what's ahead.
"I'm just out here controlling what I can control at the end of the day," he said. "I'm just looking forward to playing the season with my teammates—just building on that, playing my game and being the best player I can be."
And if he makes an impact in 2021, he might pacify those fans who wanted that high pick used on another position.
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