NFL (American Football)

NFL website:



Latest News & Results


Broncos position preview: Denver passed on Brock Bowers in the draft; now a mostly unchanged TE grou

Editor’s note: Fourth in a series previewing the Broncos’ position groups entering training camp. Today, tight ends. Previous previews: quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. 

On the roster (five-plus): Nate Adkins, Greg Dulcich, Lucas Krull, Adam Trautman and Thomas Yassmin, plus fullback Michael Burton.

How many on the 53? Three or four plus Burton.

Most impactful offseason move: Choosing Bo Nix at No. 12 over Georgia tight end Brock Bowers.

More generally, Denver didn’t sign an outside free agent or draft a tight end at all. Yeah, it was a quiet offseason at the position. The Broncos entered the spring with Trautman as a free agent and Chris Manhertz under contract for 2024 but cut Manhertz and gave Trautman a two-year deal. Trautman led Broncos tight ends in catches last year, though that’s not saying much: He did so easily at 22 catches for 204 yards. Bowers, meanwhile, is considered among the best tight end prospects in recent years and had the look of just the type of “Joker” player Payton loves to deploy all over the field. Alas, Denver also needed a quarterback and wasn’t willing to roll the dice on waiting to see if Nix could be had later in the draft. Instead, Bowers will face the Broncos twice per year as a Las Vegas Raider.

Biggest question to answer in camp: Can a mostly unchanged group produce different results?

Denver’s tight end group was one of the least impactful in the NFL in 2023. They combined for 39 catches, 355 yards and four touchdowns. Around the NFL, 28 tight ends had more yards than Denver’s entire group. Green Bay rookie Tucker Kraft, the No. 29 TE by yardage, started eight games and had 31 catches for 355 yards and two touchdowns.

Part of Denver’s answer will have to come from Krull, who showed flashes as a receiver in 2023 but is largely unproven at the NFL level. If he’s even a 400- or 500-yard receiver, the Broncos will be in better shape.

Battle to watch: Dulcich’s quest to stay healthy.

It’s been a battle, to be sure. The third-year tight end didn’t finish a game healthy in 2023, dropping out of his only two appearances with recurring right hamstring issues. If those are in the past for him, he’ll have a chance to pair with Krull as dangerous receiving options for the Broncos’ quarterbacks. However, if he can’t stay on the field, he could find himself looking at a career crossroads despite being just 24 years old.

Under-the-radar player: Adkins.

The second-year man out of South Carolina isn’t likely to be a game-breaker, but he showed the ability to do a little bit of several different things after making the team as an undrafted rookie. A next step for him might look like playing some as the “move” player, some in the backfield and continuing to be a core special teams player. If Sean Payton and company are looking for players who can be versatile and make life a little easier on a young quarterback room, Adkins has a chance to fit the bill.

Friday: Offensive line.

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.
Broncos Position Preview: Is Courtland Sutton really a part of Denver’s long-term plans?

Editor’s note: Third in a series previewing the Broncos’ position groups entering training camp. Today, wide receivers. Previous previews: quarterbacks, running backs.

On the roster (12): Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Josh Reynolds, Marvin Mims Jr., Troy Franklin, Jalen Virgil, Brandon Johnson, Devaughn Vele, Phillip Dorsett, Michael Bandy, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and David Sills V.

How many on the 53? Five

Most impactful offseason move: Trading away Jerry Jeudy

Denver shook up its wide receivers room in March when it traded Jeudy to the Cleveland Browns for a pair of late-round draft picks. Now Jeudy gets a fresh start after an underwhelming stint in the Mile High City while Mims has a chance to make a bigger impact on offense after riding in the backseat as a rookie.

“I don’t want to say holding (Mims) back, but you’re trying to get snaps with Jeudy, and (wide receiver) Courtland (Sutton),” coach Sean Payton said. “I think we’ll see a lot of growth from Year 1 to Year 2.”

Biggest question to answer in camp: Is Courtland Sutton really a part of Denver’s long-term plans?

Sutton has made it known that he is not happy about his contract situation. Last month, the veteran wideout said he and the Broncos are at a “stalemate” in negotiations and didn’t confirm whether he will report to training camp next month if his contract situation remains unresolved. Sutton, an unrestricted free agent in 2026, has a cap hit of $17.3 million in 2024 and $17.8 million in 2025. However, he doesn’t have any guaranteed money outside of the $2 million for this season, according to Over the Cap.

Sutton, who spent OTAs in Florida to rehab from offseason ankle surgery, believes he is a part of Denver’s long-term plans. But if both sides don’t find a middle ground in contract talks, what’s next for him? He is arguably Denver’s best offensive weapon, recording 10 touchdown receptions in 2023. At the same time, the Broncos have shown that they want to get younger at the position. Sutton’s name has been in trade rumors over the past two seasons, and according to Over the Cap, the Broncos could save $13.57 million by sending him to another team.

Battle to watch: Who will take the final spots on the roster?

At the moment, Denver’s top three wide receivers seem to be Sutton, Mims and Reynolds, who signed with the Broncos after spending the last two seasons in Detroit. Denver could carry four, maybe five wide receivers on the initial 53-man roster, so it will be interesting to see which players make up the final spots on the depth chart. Tim Patrick moved around well during OTAs and minicamp. But after back-to-back season-ending injuries, there are questions about how much he has left in the tank. Franklin was considered an early Day 2 pick before falling to the fourth round. He has tremendous speed and can generate a ton of yards after the catch, traits Denver’s offense needs. After Brandon Johnson made the 53-man roster last season, he might have an uphill climb in cracking a rotational spot due the return of Patrick and the new additions to the wide receiver room.

Under-the-radar player: Devaughn Vele

Vele, a seventh-round draft pick, is a player to watch. The 26-year-old rookie was solid during the team’s offseason program as a reliable, big-body target in the middle of the field. Payton seems impressed with Vele thus far, and the former Utah standout could make some noise during camp.

“He’s that player that’s proven at the college level he’s comfortable inside these numbers,” Payton said. “There are some traits you see from him that I think (WR) Tim Patrick has … when you look at their size and where they can align.”

Thursday: Tight end

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.
Broncos Position Preview: Outside of QB, is running back the biggest position battle for Denver?

Editor’s note: Second in a series previewing the Broncos’ position groups entering training camp. Today, running backs.

On the roster (four): Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, Jaleel McLaughlin, Audric Estime, Blake Watson

How many on the 53? Three. Possibly, four

Most impactful offseason move: Drafting Audric Estime

Denver answered a sneaky need during the draft by selecting Estime in the fifth round. Estime was one of the top running back prospects in this year’s class, as he rushed for 1,341 yards and 17 touchdowns in his final season for the Fighting Irish. Estime missed the majority of Denver’s offseason program, but head coach Sean Payton expects him to be a full-go at the start of training camp. 

Biggest question to answer in camp: Is Javonte Williams guaranteed to be the starter in 2024?

All eyes are on the three-man race to be Denver’s starting quarterback. What about the running back position? An argument can be made that this could be the second-most important position battle during the Broncos’ training camp since an efficient run game is essential in Payton’s offense. Williams only had three rushing touchdowns and averaged 31 yards in the last four games.

Denver expected an even stronger Williams, as he is two years removed from his ACL tear. At the same time, Payton also views Estime as an early-down running back. It will be important for Williams, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2025, to regain that physical run style that allowed him to be an impactful player as a rookie.

Battle to watch: McLaughlin vs. Perine

The Broncos have high expectations for McLaughlin, who has been working to improve as a receiver and a blocker. In 2023, Denver counted on Samaje Perine in third-down situations and he was a reliable target on checkdowns. If McLaughlin has a strong performance during training camp, maybe he could slide into that role. While McLaughlin has to get better in pass protection, he is quicker and can cover a ton of ground instantly.

Under the radar player: Blake Watson

Following the draft, the Broncos didn’t hesitate to sign Watson to a deal that included a guaranteed salary of $250,000 and a $25,000 signing bonus. The former Memphis standout possesses the skill set that Payton looks for in running backs, as he can make an impact in the passing game. In Watson’s lone season with the Tigers, he rushed for 1,152 yards and 14 touchdowns while catching 53 passes for 480 yards and three scores. Just like McLaughlin in 2023, Watson has a chance to make the team as an undrafted free agent and play a meaningful role on offense.

“We saw a player that was (a) natural (at) catching the ball. That was a big draw,” Payton said of Watson. “I’m not making the comparison, but when we drafted (Saints running back Alvin) Kamara (in New Orleans), we saw that vision.”

Wednesday: Wide receiver

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.
Brett Favre is asking an appeals court to reinstate his defamation lawsuit against Shannon Sharpe


NEW ORLEANS — Lawyers for retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to revive a defamation lawsuit Favre filed against a fellow Pro Football Hall of Fame member, former tight end Shannon Sharpe, amid the backdrop of a Mississippi welfare scandal that is one of the state’s largest public corruption cases.

A federal judge in Mississippi threw out the lawsuit in October, saying Sharpe used constitutionally protected speech on a sports broadcast when he criticized Favre’s connection to the welfare misspending case.

Favre’s lawyer, Amit Vora, told three 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges in New Orleans that the lawsuit should be revived, arguing that Sharpe accused Favre, who has not been charged with a crime, of theft.

Sharpe said during a September 2022 broadcast of the Fox Sports show “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” that Favre was “taking from the underserved,” that he “stole money from people that really needed that money” and that someone would have to be a sorry person “to steal from the lowest of the low.”

“That’s actual defamation, because that reasonable listener is taking the word steal literally and not figuratively,” Vora said.

Sharpe’s attorney, Joseph Terry, told the judges that Sharpe’s remarks were clearly an opinion offered when he was asked about a news report on the Mississippi welfare scandal and how the reports will affect Favre’s legacy.

“If you read his comments in context, it’s quite clear that he was expressing his opinions rhetorically,” Terry said.

The panel gave no indication when it would rule.

Mississippi State Auditor Shad White has said that from 2016 to 2019, the Mississippi Department of Human Services misspent more than $77 million from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program — funds intended to help some of the poorest people in the U.S.

Among White’s findings was that Favre improperly received $1.1 million in speaking fees from a nonprofit organization that spent TANF money with approval from the Department of Human Services. The money was to go toward a $5 million volleyball arena at The University of Southern Mississippi, which he attended and where his daughter was playing the sport.

Favre has paid back $1.1 million, but White said in a February court filing that the former quarterback still owes $729,790 because interest caused growth in the original amount he owed.

Favre, who lives in Mississippi, has denied wrongdoing and is not facing criminal charges. He is among more than three dozen people or companies being sued by the state Department of Human Services.

U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett’s October ruling said Sharpe’s remarks about the case were constitutionally protected “rhetorical hyperbole.”

“Here, no reasonable person listening to the Broadcast would think that Favre actually went into the homes of poor people and took their money — that he committed the crime of theft/larceny against any particular poor person in Mississippi,” Starrett wrote.


Associated Press writer Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this report.

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.
Renck vs. McFadden: Broncos’ roster ranks 31st in NFL? Well then, who will be the surprise players

Troy Renck: The Broncos have gone from Sesame Street to Compete Street. Sean Payton changed the culture – and added the Compete Street sign on the practice field – after inheriting a team lacking accountability and good coaching. The current staff knows its stuff. So, why did sportsbooks place the Broncos’ over-under win total at 5.5 in Payton’s second season? They lack talent. Payton reminds me of a college coach who needs two more solid recruiting classes or a free agent windfall similar to Coach Prime’s work in the transfer portal. ESPN recently ranked the Broncos’ roster as 31st overall, ahead of only the New York Giants. Yikes. So, Ryan, I ask you, who are the players who could overachieve and debunk this sobering opinion?

Ryan McFadden: I agree, Troy. The Broncos lack talent. At the same time, there are so many unproven guys with opportunities to play major roles this fall so we really don’t know what to expect from some of them. But to answer your question, there are a few players who I think could stand out. For starters, outside linebacker Nik Bonitto has a chance to make a bigger name for himself in Year 3. The former Oklahoma standout went from collecting 1.5 sacks as a rookie to eight in his sophomore campaign. It’s impressive how fast Bonitto can come off the edge to create pressure on the quarterback. His next step is becoming a more well-rounded player and being able to make an impact in the run game. On offense, running back Jaleel McLaughlin could be a player that could make some noise. Given McLaughlin’s speed and ability as a receiver, he could be a playmaker for Denver if utilized correctly. As rookie, McLaughlin showed flashes of his potential, but there were times when he wouldn’t see the field or the Broncos made it obvious to the defense that they were giving him the ball.

Renck: My answer is always the same when fans ask me about Denver’s’ dim prospects in 2024? Where are the offensive weapons? For the Broncos to overachieve, they need some surprises from the skill positions. Tight end Lucas Krull looks like a star straight out of central casting at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds. He should catch 35 passes for 500 yards and four touchdowns.  And what about Marvin Mims Jr.? He is an All-Pro returner. There’s no reason he cannot reach 800 yards and six touchdowns with his blurry speed as a complement to Courtland Sutton and Josh Reynolds. I still warn against drafting Broncos on your fantasy league team, but they do have some sleepers.

McFadden: I need to see how Krull looks during training camp or preseason before being sold on him. He looked good during Denver’s offseason program and showed that he could potentially be a pass catching threat that the team has desperately needed from the tight end position since Greg Dulcich has struggled to overcome injuries. I understand that the Broncos want to win but this season should be about seeing what the young players can do. With that said, it might be wise for Denver to unleash Mims. Whenever former quarterback Russell Wilson threw the ball deep to Mims, the speedy wideout made something happen. The Broncos can’t afford letting Mims sit in the backseat for another season. Like you said, Troy, there’s no reason for Mims to not reach at least 800 receiving yards.

Renck: And let’s not forget about the other side of the ball. Defensive tackle Malcolm Roach and John Franklin-Myers hold the key to better tackling and improving the much-maligned run defense. But the Broncos’ need an even bigger impact from a pass rusher. They haven’t had a player reach double digit sacks since 2018. Outside linebacker Baron Browning bet on himself through athletic shares stock, and is finally healthy. Jonathon Cooper remains the team’s most well-rounded edge player. And Bonitto has the best first step. But Browning, a pending free agent, is my X-factor to reach 11 sacks, creating the type of pressure that will result in at least two Pat Surtain II picks.

McFadden: I think Denver’s trio of edge rushers, Browning, Cooper and Bonitto, can take a leap in 2024. Browning should benefit from being fully healthy but my bet is on Bonitto to break the curse and record double-digit sacks.The group should benefit from the addition of Franklin-Myers. With him and Zach Allen up front, life might be a bit easier from the outside linebackers. I’m looking forward to seeing how Denver’s defensive line holds up in the trenches. The group was arguably the weakest unit in 2023, as they collectively struggled to stop the run and generate quarterback pressure. Franklin-Myers had a career-best 27 pressures for the Jets last season while Roach has proven to be a quality run-stopper. If the Denver’s defense want to avoid another dreadful start, it will need the defensive line to step up.

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.
Broncos position preview: Can rookie Bo Nix prove he’s ready to be Sean Payton’s quarterback in

Editor’s note: First in a series previewing the Broncos’ position groups entering training camp. Today, quarterbacks.

On the roster (three): Bo Nix, Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson

How many on the 53? Likely two, outside chance for three.

Most impactful offseason move: Drafted Nix No. 12 overall in April’s draft.

The Broncos made a quarterback move by trading for Wilson on Monday of draft week. That Thursday they made the quarterback move by selecting Nix in the first round. Head coach Sean Payton boasted in February that Denver would nail the quarterback decision and predicted others wouldn’t. At the end of the offseason program, he said Nix had been everything they thought he’d be when they scouted him out of Oregon and Auburn. He’s the man who Payton’s second coaching act will be most closely associated with.

Biggest question to answer in camp: Is Nix ready from the start?

Frame the quarterback question however you want, but there’s no getting around the fact that Nix sits at the center of it. First-round picks play. Usually they don’t wait very long. The number of guys who got thrown in right away like Wilson far out-paces the number who wait a long time a la Green Bay’s Jordan Love. The choice, Payton said multiple times this offseason, often boils down to who’s in front of a young player. If it’s a proven veteran, sometimes watching and learning is best. If not, the rookie tends to play early. The Broncos very clearly fall into the latter category. If Nix shows he can operate the offense in the preseason, there’s no reason for him not to play come September.

Battle to watch: No-brainer, but don’t sleep on the battle for No. 2.

The competition to be Denver’s starter will be the talk of training camp, but almost as interesting is what Payton and company decide at the No. 2 spot. Stidham is more of a known quantity and Payton thinks there’s upside remaining with him, too. Wilson has tantalizing talent and tepid actual production dating to his three years in New York. Each are only under contract for this season with Wilson carrying a bit more guaranteed money ($2.55 million owed by the Broncos compared to $1 million for Stidham). Is it a dollars-and-cents decision? Is it a long-term potential decision? Is it purely who plays better this summer? Or is it ultimately about finding a steady hand to back up Nix? So far, you could give Wilson two of those categories (money and long-range potential) and Stidham the other two. Then another question: Can Denver sneak one onto the practice squad at the end of August?

Under the radar player: Wilson.

The guy’s not really under the radar after getting selected No. 2 overall just three years ago and then flaming out in the country’s biggest media market. But he does enter training camp already perceived by some as lagging behind Nix and Stidham. At times, his decision-making in OTAs and minicamp was questionable. He would seem to have the longest odds of the trio of starting Week 1 at Seattle. And yet, the arm talent just jumps out when the three stand next to each other and throw. Payton’s made a point of saying that arm strength alone is overrated by NFL observers, but he’s also made it clear the Broncos wanted a chance to work with Wilson’s talent. It’s not the most likely outcome, but if Wilson gets a fast start in camp, August gets interesting quickly.

Tuesday: Running backs.

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.
Gomber, Rockies hold off Royals for 3-1 win

Gomber, Rockies hold off Royals for 3-1 win

07/07/2024, USA, American Football, NFL, Article # 31853595

Austin Gomber was fired up in the seventh.

Against the Kansas City Royals, the Rockies starting pitcher desperately needed to get out of a tough spot in order to maintain his team’s two-run advantage. With one out and runners at the corners, Gomber forced Royals second baseman Garrett Hampson to pop out and had center fielder Kyle Isbel fly out before letting out a loud scream, as he walked towards the dugout.

Gomber hasn’t earned a victory since May 15. But on Saturday night at Coors Field, he finally earned his second win of the season, helping the Rockies beat Kansas City 3-1.

Gomber gave up one run on six hits and recorded three strikeouts in seven innings on the mound. He kept the Royals scoreless for five straight innings before giving up a solo home run to first baseman Vinny Pasquantino in the sixth inning.

The Royals’ attempt at a comeback fell flat. Kansas City had runners on first and second with two outs when Colorado relief pitcher Victor Vodnik forced Michael Massey to ground out to first to end the game.

After a quiet first inning from both sides, center fielder Brenton Doyle ignited a spark in the bottom of the second. Second baseman Brendon Rodgers reached first on an error before Doyle crushed a two-run homer off Royals starter Seth Lugo.

While the Rockies jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, Gomber kept the Royals in check. He allowed a leadoff single in the first but then kept Kansas City hitless for two straight innings. The Royals, however, threatened to cut down Colorado’s lead in the fourth.

With two outs, catcher Salvador Perez singled followed by a right fielder Hunter Renfroe’s double to put runners on the second and third. Gomber remained calm and managed to get out of the jam by throwing back-to-back knuckle curveballs to strikeout left fielder MJ Melendez.

Just like the Royals, Colorado wasted an opportunity to drive in runs in the bottom half of the inning. Rodgers hit a leadoff double to center before Doyle reached first on a walk. But Lugo would eventually force right fielder Jake Cave to ground into a double play then Michael Toglia hit a grounder to first.

The Rockies managed to add to their lead in the fifth when third baseman Ryan McMahon belted an RBI single up the middle of the field. McMahon was 3 for 3 with a walk.

Lugo allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and struck out five batters in six innings. He entered the game with a 7-0 record and a 1.93 ERA on the road this season.

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.
Broncos Journal: Making a case for and against each QB to be Denver’s starter

Broncos Journal: Making a case for and against each QB to be Denver’s starter

07/07/2024, USA, American Football, NFL, Article # 31853463

Until head coach Sean Payton names a starting quarterback, the three-man race between rookie Bo Nix, Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson will be the most talked about position battle during training camp.

Throughout organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, each quarterback displayed traits that could make him a candidate to be the starter. Still, there’s more work to be done, as training camp and preseason games will give the coaching staff a better opportunity to evaluate which player gives Denver the best chance to win this fall.

With Broncos’ training camp three weeks away, here are cases for and against each quarterback based on what was seen during Denver’s offseason program.

Bo Nix

Case for: Whether it’s this season or next, Nix will be handed over the keys to the offense. Payton has never developed a rookie quarterback throughout his career, but he saw value in the former Auburn and Oregon standout to take him 12th overall, a move that was considered a reach at the time of the draft.

Since Nix has been in Denver, he has done nothing but impress his teammates and coaches. The Broncos have raved about Nix’s composure in the pocket and understanding of the playbook. Another noticeable trait from Nix during practices has been his ability to make plays outside of the pocket and quickly get the ball out of his hands.

Nix has moved around like a seasoned veteran, mainly because he was the most experienced quarterback in his draft class, starting in 61 career games–most all-time by a FBS quarterback. In addition to his experience level, Nix is known for being a good processor and being accurate with the football, as he is Oregon’s all-time leader in completion percentage (74.9%).

“I think with Bo being a young guy and a guy they took really high, I understand the politics of the game and everyone is rooting for him to be the guy,” wide receiver Courtland Sutton said. “I think he does a lot of things really well and has the ability to go out and have success early.”

Case against: Even though Nix has the experience, he is still a rookie and the NFL is a different beast compared to college. He will have a learning curve to overcome. Yes, the franchise is desperate to find a long term solution at quarterback. But given the current state of the team, it might be best for Nix to spend a few weeks as a backup, gain an even greater understanding of the system before taking over.

At the same time, one of the concerns about Nix’s game ahead of the draft was the lack of throwing the ball down the field due to Oregon’s offensive scheme. In 2023, 28.1% of Nix’s pass attempts were behind the line of scrimmage, according to Pro Football Focus.

Jarrett Stidham

Case for: At this point, Stidham has a slight edge over Nix. During practices, Stidham was efficient and occasionally made big plays down the field. More importantly, the former Patriots and Raiders signal caller has a better understanding of the offense since this is his second season in Payton’s scheme. “​​I’m not out there thinking as much, I’m just out there playing free and playing more confident, which is great,” Stidham said.

The Broncos could view Stidham as someone who gives them the best chance to win a few games out the gate because of his knowledge of the offense and familiarity with the players.

Case against: When given the opportunity to be the starter, Stidham hasn’t set the world on fire. In four games, Stidham has a 1-3 record, while throwing for 1,070 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. After Stidham replaced Russell Wilson for the final two games of 2023, he totaled 496 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and a quarterback rating of 31.1.

Zach Wilson

Case for: Out of the three, Wilson has the strongest arm. The former Jets quarterback can make a throw from anywhere on the field and has mobility to keep defenses honest. Perhaps Payton and the coaching staff can figure out a way to unlock the 24-year-old’s potential and turn his career around.

Case against: Wilson’s time in New York was a disaster, as he went from being a beacon of hope for the franchise, which selected him second overall in 2021, to being labeled as one of the biggest busts in NFL history. During Wilson’s three seasons with the Jets, he threw for 6,293 yards, 23 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in 34 games (33 starts). Wilson has yet to throw for 10-plus touchdowns in a season.

After Wilson was traded to Denver in April, the issues he had with the Jets would occasionally pop up during practice. On the days Denver opened practice to the media, Wilson struggled with his decision-making. He would try to force throws that would lead to the ball getting picked off.

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.
Broncos CB Pat Surtain II embraces being face of defense heading into Year 4: “His voice goes a lo

After an offseason of change within the Broncos’ roster, cornerback Pat Surtain II understands that his fourth season in the NFL comes with more responsibilities outside of defending the league’s top wide receivers.

With the departure of key players, including All-Pro safety and veteran voice Justin Simmons, the former Alabama standout is expected to take on a leadership role on defense. Surtain’s performance on the field had already warranted that, but with a secondary that features new faces and young players looking to prove themselves, it’s not like he had much of a choice.

“I take very much pride in it because that’s how the team views me,” Surtain told The Denver Post. “I’m blessed to be in the role that I’m now, so I just got to set an example.”

Surtain, the ninth overall pick in 2021, is used to being bestowed with high expectations.

As a five-star recruit at American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Surtain was ranked the top cornerback and the sixth-best overall recruit in 247Sports’ composite rankings. At Alabama, Surtain started in 12 games as a freshman before being named unanimous first-team All-American by the Associated Press in 2020.

At some point in the very near future, Surtain is also expected to become one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in NFL history.

“I’ve dealt with it my whole life,” Surtain said. “… Living up to those expectations and making a name for myself excites me the most.”

New Broncos defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard is excited to help Surtain grow as a leader. Even though Surtain has established himself as one of the premier cornerbacks in the sport, Leonhard believes he can have an even greater impact on and off the field.

“He’s getting to a point in his career where his voice goes a long way,” Leonhard said.

Throughout Surtain’s football career, he has let his play do the talking.

Former Alabama defensive backs coach Karl Scott jokingly said Surtain was so calm that he would have to check to see if the 6-foot-2 cornerback had a pulse. The moments when Surtain did let loose, Scott was stunned. He vividly remembers taking a freshman Surtain and the rest of Alabama’s defensive backs to the bowling alley and seeing a couple of players dancing to a Michael Jackson song.

When Scott turned around, he couldn’t believe Surtain was among the few. “I was shocked and you can tell when (Surtain) looked back, he was like ‘Oh, that’s not me,’” the Seahawks defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator said.

Surtain has always been a quiet person who keeps to himself. Safety Delarrin Turner-Yell, a Texas native, said he was surprised by Surtain’s reserved attitude because most of the players he knows from Florida are the opposite.

“You can’t get much out of him. I even asked him, ‘Pat, do you talk trash on the field?’” Turner-Yell said.

Indeed, Surtain’s teammates have rarely seen him taunt opponents or relish loudly in his success. But while his words are few, they carry weight among his teammates.

“He took me under his wing, showing me the way and how to be a Bronco and understanding the (defensive) scheme,” said cornerback Reese Taylor, who has been on Denver’s practice squad since last November. “There’s a lot to take from his game and I ask him questions here and there.”

Even though Denver is viewed to be rebuilding, Surtain is optimistic about the defense. Last season, the Broncos dealt with the struggle of adjusting to a new system under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Denver was one of the worst passing defenses in the league to start the season before flipping the switch and generating 16 takeaways during a five-game win streak. Still, the Broncos’ inconsistency in neutralizing the passing game was noticeable down the stretch.

Surtain said the team struggled with communication, as there were moments when they were confused about certain things on defense.

“I feel like we are more comfortable and play faster,” Surtain said.

Still, there’s a bit of uncertainty about how Denver’s secondary will perform this fall, with the majority of the group young and unproven.

Twenty-five-year-old cornerback Damarri Mathis is hoping to rebound after getting benched in the middle of the 2023 campaign. Second-year cornerback Riley Moss, 24, has upside with his speed and athleticism, but his rookie season was impacted by injury and most of his snaps came on special teams. Fifth-round selection and former Missouri standout Kris Abrams-Draine provides the flexibility of playing inside and out but is very much unproven.

Joseph said whoever starts alongside Surtain will have to be resilient, work through adversity during games and not mind being attacked by opposing offenses. If 2024 is anything like last fall, that’s almost assuredly going to happen.

“Pat is kind of the leader, and he’s only 24 years old,” Broncos general manager George Paton said. “So it’s going to be a young group. They’ll have growing pains, but we feel like it’s a talented group.”

Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all our NFL analysis.