ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Matched up against one of the league's elite receivers in Week 1 in the Raiders' Davante Adams, Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II did his best to stifle the dangerous Las Vegas passing game. Surtain recorded a career-high three pass breakups and limited Adams to two catches for 11 yards when Surtain was in coverage.
But according to Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph, matching Surtain up against the opponent's top receiver on a weekly basis isn't as simple as that. Though Denver can direct opponents toward Surtain, creativity by opposing offenses can limit the damage Surtain is able to inflict.
"The same way we have game plans to kind of take their best player away, it's the same for offenses," Joseph said after Thursday's practice. "They are going to avoid Pat from time-to-time. We have ways to make them go towards Pat and also have ways to help the guy opposite. That's going to be an ongoing process every single week. Who wants to throw at Patrick?"
Surtain offered a similar explanation, noting that staying true to the scheme and his role in the defense is a priority.
"It could be easy to say [to always match up against the top receiver], but sometimes the scheme would defer from that," Surtain said. "... You've got to fit in your role, fit inside the defense and find ways to maximize your potential."
While Surtain's coverage of Adams helped neutralize the Raiders' clear top target in the passing game, he said the Commanders will pose a challenge by having two playmakers in receivers Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. The two players — who combined for seven catches for 71 yards in Week 1 — possess versatility and explosiveness that will make them challenging for the Broncos' secondary to contain.
"They've got two good receivers in [Jahan] Dotson and [Terry] McLaurin," Surtain said. "They're pretty versatile in their scheme — they can match up anywhere on the field. They use those guys well within their play-calling style and those are their two playmakers, obviously. Defensively, we have something schemed up, we have a plan for them, too. It will be an exciting matchup."
LOMBARDI EXCITED ABOUT JEUDY'S FULL RETURN TO PRACTICE
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy didn't play in the Broncos' season opener against the Raiders, but on Thursday he was a full participant in practice and has Denver's offensive players and coaches thrilled for his return.
Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi spoke highly of Jeudy's impact on the Broncos' offense. Jeudy's return should provide a major boost, especially after tight end Greg Dulcich suffered a hamstring injury against the Raiders.
"He's a great route-runner," Lombardi said of Jeudy. "You feel really good when he's matched up man-to-man, so when you recognize that, [he's] someone you look to early as a quarterback. [He's] a guy that consistently can get separation.
"The more receivers that you have that can win those one-on-one matchups, the easier it is. It'll definitely be good to have him back."
KOTWICA ENCOURAGED BY MIMS' DEBUT AS KICK RETURNER
Wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr., the Broncos' top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, enjoyed an exciting debut to his pro career. Denver's starting kick and punt returner, Mims fielded two kickoffs and averaged 27.5 yards per return.
On his second return, Mims found open field and recorded a 30-yard return to start off the second half, though he nearly turned the play into an even bigger gain. Mims' return impressed Special Teams Coordinator Ben Kotwica and rewarded Kotwica's decision to count on the rookie early on.
"Very, very close to breaking it," Kotwica said of Mims' return. "The safety on that side ended up coming off the block. I'll give him credit. It was very, very well blocked."
Kotwica also emphasized the traits that Mims showcased on the return and said he's already looking forward to Mims' next chance to break a long return.
"I loved the explosiveness and loved the decisiveness that we saw out of Marvin on that," Kotwica said. "We're just waiting on another pitch to hit."