He may have only played one season in the NFL so far, but Pat Surtain II has already earned quite the reputation as one of the league's young rising stars.
In picking out the 25 best players who have not yet turned 25 years old, Pro Football Focus's Trevor Sikkema tabbed Surtain at No. 20.
"Surtain stepped into the NFL game and looked like a veteran, which is insanely difficult to do at any position, let alone cornerback," Sikkema wrote. "While most young starters are trying to figure out the speed of the game in their first year or two, Surtain acted like he'd been playing at that level for years coming from Alabama. He allowed just a 56% completion percentage into his coverage on 530 pass snaps."
As PFF's Sam Monson noted elsewhere in a closer look at the top overall cornerbacks in press coverage, Surtain performed among the best corners at any age. Monson's analysis shows that Surtain allowed a passer rating of just 39.8 in those situations (topped only by teammate Ronald Darby).
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With Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero taking the helm of the defense this year, there could be some changes in store for Surtain and Co., though it's expected that Evero will not implement widespread change to the base defense.
The key question then, as The Athletic’s Diante Lee writes, is this: "What is Evero's identity in passing situations?"
"I'm curious to see where Evero draws schematic inspiration from: his time with Wade Phillips in Los Angeles, Dom Capers in Green Bay, Brandon Staley in 2020 or Raheem Morris in 2021?" Lee wrote. "Each of these coaches have run the 3-4 defense at different stops — and Evero isn't looking to overhaul the foundational elements Vic Fangio laid down in Denver — but those coordinators have distinct tendencies and approaches. Evero will have to build or borrow an identity, based on whether he prefers blitzing or rushing with four, man or zone coverage and single-high or split-safety coverage schemes."