Patrick Surtain II has a rare distinction for cornerbacks entering their third NFL season: He’ll soon play for his third different defensive coordinator on the Denver Broncos.
Surtain earned his first Pro Bowl nod under former DC Ejiro Evero, who now gets to coach fellow 2021 NFL Draft member Jaycee Horn with the Carolina Panthers. Will this mean a production drop-off for Surtain? Or is a new scheme under Vance Joseph made for him?
Vance Joseph Bringing Exotic Scheme Filled With Man Coverage
For starters, Joseph will likely deploy an odd front along the defensive line — something we saw from Evero’s defense.
Evero, though, carried over what Ed Donatell (Surtain’s first DC) left behind, and Evero incorporated it into his first defensive unit. So the transition for the Broncos’ defense and the league adjustment for Surtain wasn’t one that got lost on the brain cells.
Joseph operates with a similar front look. But it’s a defense reliant on applying pressure to the quarterback and getting the secondary to disrupt the timing of routes on offense. Joseph became known for rolling the dice and sending out a flurry of blitzes and stunts to confuse and attack offenses.
But Joseph’s primary blueprint in the backend of the defense is man coverage. That’s perfect for Surtain, as press-man was one of his calling cards when he entered the league out of Alabama.
Surtain not only allowed 45 total receptions on his side for just 468 yards, per Pro Football Reference, but he produced seven games of allowing 0-1 catches on his side.
Surtain may be playing for his third defensive coordinator, but the 2022 Pro Bowler doesn’t appear to be heading toward a production fall anytime soon.
Pat Surtain, Joseph, and Broncos Defense Get Fierce WR Gauntlet Right Away
The Broncos will find out early on if they can improve on their seventh overall rankings in yards allowed last season. Their first five games feature a WR gauntlet that will test the unit.
And for Surtain, he gets the kind of matchups that, if he bottles this group, would finally force him into the conversation as the best CB in the NFL. Here’s who awaits him and Denver right off the bat.
Las Vegas Raiders and Davante Adams
Surtain already made comments to Kay Adams on “Up & Adams” about the Week 1 battle between him and perennial Pro Bowler Davante Adams, saying, “We battled it out the first year … I’m looking forward to many more battles.”
Washington Commanders and Terry McLaurin
This will be the second time Surtain and McLaurin will lock horns on the field.
McLaurin had one of his worst games that day — three catches for 23 yards. But he’s since established himself as a 1,000-yard wideout in three consecutive seasons and earned his first Pro Bowl last season. This time, Sam Howell is likely going to be feeding him the ball with Surtain hovering nearby.
Miami Dolphins and Tyreek Hill
This battle could also involve packages where Jaylen Waddle is aligned with Surtain.
But Surtain vs. Hill becomes a reunion of brief AFC West foes. The two men didn’t face each other last year. Their last meeting was on Dec. 5, 2021, when Hill caught just two passes for 22 yards. Hill and the Chiefs, though, rolled to a 22-9 victory.
Chicago Bears and DJ Moore
It’ll be the second straight year Surtain gets to face three-time 1,000-yard WR DJ Moore. But this time, Moore has Justin Fields lobbing the ball his way.
In their last meeting, Moore hit 103 yards on four catches and scored a touchdown in Carolina Panthers’ 23-10 win. Moore got 77 of those yards and three of his receptions facing Surtain.
New York Jets and Garrett Wilson
The second meeting between two past top-10 picks takes on a new meaning with Aaron Rodgers involved.
While Wilson did establish himself as a 1,000-yard wideout his rookie year, he caught just four passes for 24 yards in the 2022 meeting with Denver. Surtain surrendered just one reception for 12 yards on one target facing Wilson.