During his first eight weeks in the NFL, cornerback Pat Surtain II has proved to be as good as advertised as a rookie. He's recorded seven passes defensed, an interception and 26 total tackles, and according to Pro Football Reference, he's allowed a passer rating of just 68.4 when targeted.
Because of his excellent play, Surtain has earned a larger role as a starter, and he's earned outside acclaim as the sole cornerback selected to The Athletic’s Midseason All-Rookie team.
"Surtain was one of my favorite players to study in last year's draft class because the position came so naturally to him," The Athletic's Dane Brugler wrote. "Now in Denver, he remains a fun watch as he is baptized in NFL waters against the best receivers in the world. Surtain plays stick without showing any panic, which allows him to stay in phase downfield."
On Sunday against Washington, Surtain was responsible for one of the most crucial plays of the game. By batting down a pass intended for WR DeAndre Carter on Washington's final series, Surtain prevented a would-be scoring drive for WFT from moving forward and allowed the Broncos to maintain their lead.
"With Washington set up in Denver territory to attempt a game-winning drive, Surtain broke up a pass that would have given Washington just a few yards to go for the score," Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson wrote. "It was just one of his good plays in this game, where he allowed just three catches for 27 yards from the eight passes thrown into his coverage."
Surtain was credited with two total tackles and a pass defensed on the day, and he helped lock down Washington receiver Terry McLaurin for the duration of the matchup.
"Surtain didn't allow any one receiver to catch more than one pass, and Terry McLaurin didn't get anything against him," Monson wrote.
Surtain's performance vs. Washington helped to secure his spot as the lone cornerback on The Athletic's all-rookie team.By locking down yet another No. 1 receiver, Surtain also showcased part of what Brugler believes makes the rookie corner so special.
"Through eight games, he has allowed only 51.1 percent completions on 256 coverage snaps, surrendering only 23 completions on his watch," Brugler wrote. "He is second among all rookies in passes defended (seven) and he is one of 11 rookies who have recorded their first NFL interception."
In his analysis of Surtain, Burgler returned to Surtain's pre-draft scouting report, referencing the summary of Surtain's potential which still rings true through the first half of his rookie season.
"Final line from his scouting report: Overall, Surtain lacks elite play strength and twitch for the position, but he is smooth, instinctive and the game happens slower for him than most cornerbacks. He projects as an NFL starting-level press-man corner with Pro Bowl potential," Brugler wrote.
Below the Fold
Safety Justin Simmons put on a show during Denver's win over Washington on Sunday, as the defense was called on to win the game twice in the final minutes of the matchup.
Simmons was responsible for not one, but two crucial turnovers vs. Washington, including what was essentially a game-sealing interception at the end of the fourth quarter. He also racked up seven tackles and two passes defensed during the win.
Simmons earned an overall grade of 80.2 from Pro Football Focus vs. Washington, and tied for the most interceptions in Week 8 with two.
Simmons' performance earned him high praise from Pro Football Focus in their evaluation of the game vs. Washington.
"This is why the Broncos backed up the Brinks truck for Justin Simmons," PFF's Michael Renner wrote. "He had a crucial fourth-down stop early in the game, and then almost single-handedly shut down Washington's penultimate attempt at a game-tying drive in the fourth quarter."