Making the spectacular look simple


Back in the spring, after he signed with the Broncos as an undrafted rookie and went through a handful of practices with the veterans, cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian was asked about having a front-row view of The Pat Surtain II Experience.

McMillian’s eyes widened.

“Oh, man,” he said. “When I look at him, I think, ‘Technician.’ And he’s just a smooth guy.”

Through four practices, Surtain is having an “Oh, man” type of training camp. He has mirrored his assignment in man coverage. He has diagnosed plays in zone coverage. And he has had several eye-popping pass break-ups.

Year 2 for PS2 could vault him into the NFL’s elite.

The thing is, Surtain is making the spectacular look simple.

“It’s crazy,” defensive coordinator Ejero Evero said after practice Saturday. “Just effortless. He’s such a smooth athlete and that’s one of the qualities of really good players — they make it look easy and he’s definitely in that (category).”

Surtain 2022 isn’t a night and day difference from Surtain 2021, when he was drafted ninth overall and became a starter in Week 2 after Ronald Darby sustained a hamstring injury.

Asked what jumps out about Surtain’s game, coach Nathaniel Hackett said: “All of the above.”

Surtain played 16 games (15 starts) and ranked first in pass break-ups (14), second in interceptions (four) and defensive snaps (902), and third in tackles (58). His six missed tackles were tied for second-most on the Broncos, but he had only one in the second half of the year.

Surtain’s highlights included two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) in the home win over the Los Angeles Chargers, two pass break-ups in man coverage against Keenan Allen in the second Chargers game and only two touchdowns allowed in man per The Denver Post’s game charting.

During the offseason, Surtain became a stickler for his own game video.

“I can always get better on my technique,” he said. “You’re never perfect. You can always work on little things. That’s what helps you elevate. Once you (concentrate) on those little aspects of the game, you’ll elevate to a much bigger level. That’s what I’m looking at.”

Surtain also looked at the Broncos’ September schedule.

Week 1: Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf (12 touchdowns in 2021).

Week 2: Houston’s Brandin Cooks (90 catches last year).

Week 3: San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel (1,404 yards last year).

Notepad in front of him and the clicker in his hand, Surtain started grinding.

“You start it early on, just keeping an eye on them, keeping an eye on tendencies, looking at route concepts and what they like to do,” he said.


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