The Broncos' 2021 NFL Draft class continues to pay dividends, with both their first- and second-round selections putting on a show through the first two weeks of the season. CB Pat Surtain II and RB Javonte Williams have both earned spots on Pro Football Focus' list of the top 10 rookies through Week 2 thanks to their exceptional performances.
Surtain, the No. 9 overall pick in April's draft, has been undeniably impressive through the first two games, making his first career start in Week 2 vs. Jacksonville following an injury to veteran CB Ronald Darby, who was placed on injured reserve.
In his first NFL start, Surtain wasted no time hauling in his first career interception — a dramatic and acrobatic takeaway on the sideline.
"Surtain earned his first career start against the Jaguars, and he rewarded head coach Vic Fangio's faith with his first career interception," Renner said. "He was targeted five times and allowed only three catches for 30 yards. That pick was textbook form on a go-ball, as Surtain boxed receiver Collin Johnson almost out of bounds."
Surtain earned the No. 6 overall spot on PFF's list of top 10 rookies through Week 2, with a 77.7 grade overall.
Williams, has been equally impressive through the first two weeks of the NFL season. Selected at No. 35 overall, he has been a force to be reckoned with out of the backfield. While sharing carries with veteran Melvin Gordon III, Williams racked up 45 yards on 14 carries in Week 1 and 64 yards on 13 attempts in Week 2. Perhaps more impressive than his total yards has been his ability to break tackles and churn out hard-fought yards after contact.
"Do you know the Javonte Williams who set the PFF record for broken tackle rate in college?" PFF's Michael Renner asked. "Well, he's still doing it in the NFL. Williams broke seven tackles on 13 attempts against the Jaguars this past week. Of his 64 yards, 45 came after contact."
And Williams has impressed more than fans and critics — even teammate Justin Simmons was so wowed by Williams' hard running vs. Jacksonville that he couldn't keep it to himself, cheering the rookie RB on from the sidelines and dubbing him "Lil' Pinball."
Williams' performance earned him the No. 4 spot among all rookies on Pro Football Focus' list, with an overall rating of 81.9.
"It's safe to say he'll be seeing more touches as the season goes on," Renner said.
Below the Fold
In Week 2, Von Miller extended his hot start to the season by recording his third sack of the year. Miller recorded two sacks in Week 1, his first regular season appearance since an ankle injury cost him all of the 2020 season.
Week 2 was meant to be a reunion for Miller and fellow OLB Bradley Chubb, and while it was for little over a quarter, Chubb left in the second quarter after re-aggravating an ankle injury that sidelined him in recent weeks leading up the game.
For Miller, Chubb's absence represents more games facing potential double-teams without Chubb across from him to draw attention.
"When Chubb is absent, things get tougher for Miller," ESPN's Jeff Legwold said. "In 2019, for example, Miller had six sacks during the 12 games Chubb missed as offenses consistently loaded up against him on long-yardage downs."
But Miller is determined to find a way to be disruptive to opposing QBs, even if it means switching sides on the line.
"Miller, who usually plays at the left outside linebacker spot -- across from the offense's right tackle -- moved to Chubb's right outside linebacker spot several times in the second half against the Jaguars after Chubb departed," Legwold said.
For Miller, it's all about getting to the action. If offenses are going to avoid him, Miller is going to go looking for the big plays.
"I can play both sides," Miller said. "It felt to me that they were running the ball more to the right side. I wanted to get over there and kind of throw a wrench in there."
During Chubb's absence, OLB Malik Reed will get the bulk of the snaps opposite Miller, with rookie OLB Jonathon Cooper taking some as well. But if Sunday's game vs. Jacksonville is any indication, Miller is going to find his way into the backfield no matter the circumstances, and no matter where he is lined up.