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Mile High Morning: Johnson, Surtain named to PFF's Preseason All-Rookie team

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The Lead

Following impressive preseason campaigns by S Jamar Johnson and CB Pat Surtain II, the two Broncos DBs have been named to Pro Football Focus' Preseason All-Rookie team. Denver is the only team to have two defenders on the All-Rookie roster.

First-round pick Surtain has impressed across the board in his preseason appearances, maintaining a 0.0 passer rating when targeted, according to PFF, and hauling in a pick-six in Week 1.

"Four targets, one catch, 12 yards, a pick-six and a pass breakup highlighted Surtain's stat line," Michael Renner of PFF said. "He was at his best from start to finish this preseason en route to a 90.5 overall grade. Surtain was billed as NFL-ready, and so far, he looks nothing short of that."

Fifth-round pick Johnson may have flown a bit more under the radar than Surtain heading into the preseason, but he certainly made his presence felt in each opportunity on the field. 

"Johnson was one of the best coverage safeties in the draft, and he lived up to it this preseason," Renner said. "On 69 coverage snaps, he allowed only three catches from five targets for 22 yards and two forced incompletions. Only one of those completions resulted in a first down."

According to Renner, Denver has found another DB to help contain the AFC West's opposing deep threat offensive weapons.

"The Broncos have taken advantage of [Johnson's] prowess on the back end by playing him almost exclusively deep this preseason, with 74 of his 99 snaps coming there," Renner said.

Denver already has a stacked DB unit before adding Johnson and Surtain into the mix, but if the preseason is any indication, these two rookie defenders are well on their way to helping cement the Broncos secondary as one of the most formidable in the league.

Below the Fold

Last season, S Justin Simmons was named to his first Pro Bowl and received his second All-Pro nod. He followed up a breakout 2019 campaign, in which he racked up 15 passes defensed and four interceptions, with a career-best five-interception performance in 2020. 

Simmons' 2019 season earned him his first appearance on ESPN's 2020 annual ranking of the top 100 players, debuting at No. 92 on the list. This year, Simmons makes a significant jump to No. 59 among the top 100 of 2021.

"Simmons can do everything, from covering, to playing the run, to being a leader on his team," Jeff Legwold of ESPN said. "There are only two safeties in the league to have three consecutive seasons of at least 90 tackles and three interceptions: Simmons and Jessie Bates III."

In addition to being consistent in coverage, Simmons has been reliable in another capacity for Denver as well.

"Simmons has played 3,211 consecutive snaps and is the league's only defensive player to have appeared in every defensive snap since the start of the 2018 season," Legwold said.

With kickoff of the 2021 regular season on the horizon, ESPN's Mike Clay predicts another successful year for Simmons, projecting 93 tackles, three interceptions and Simmons' first career forced fumble.

If the preseason is any indication, Simmons' ballhawk reputation should be on full display this year — he quickly recorded an interception and a pass defensed in his limited preseason snaps against Seattle in Week 2, reminding the NFL exactly how disruptive he can be.

Simmons' defensive prowess has been apparent across the league and to viewers, but especially so in Denver, where they value his leadership and ability to dominate in any coverage situation.

"It's such a passing league, and his ability to play the run, play in space, blitz and cover a tight end — it's huge to have that on your football team," Broncos General Manager George Paton said.

The Unclassifieds

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