ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Cornerback Patrick Surtain II's first NFL start is against a familiar foe: Trevor Lawrence, whose Clemson Tigers walloped his top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the national championship three years ago.
“We were both freshmen at the time, both young pups,” Surtain said Wednesday. “He got the edge on us.”
By a bunch — the Tigers scored the game's final 30 points for a 44-16 win on Jan. 8, 2018.
Twenty-seven months later, the Jacksonville Jaguars made Lawrence the league's top draft pick and the Denver Broncos chose Surtain ninth overall.
They'll square off again Sunday when the Broncos (1-0) visit the Jaguars (0-1).
“He's a great quarterback,” Surtain said, “so, it should be a good game.”
Lawrence's pro debut against Houston last week was a mixed bag: 28-for-51 passing for 332 yards with three touchdowns but also three interceptions in the Jaguars' 37-21 loss.
Surtain won his debut but he surrendered a 37-yard touchdown pass to Giants receiver Sterling Shepard in the Broncos' 27-13 win at the Meadowlands.
Surtain played some dime linebacker against the Giants and switched off with cornerback Kyle Fuller in the nickel early on but ended up playing just 16 snaps.
“It's a learning experience,” said Surtain, who started 38 of 41 games at Tuscaloosa. “I was just sitting there waiting to get in, just playing what I need to play on the field. ... There wasn’t as many dime opportunities out there.
"So, I was just going to sit back and wait my turn.”
There's no more holding back Surtain.
He'll start Sunday for cornerback Ronald Darby, who went on IR with a pulled hamstring.
“I think he's going to be great,” said safety Justin Simmons, whose advice for Surtain was simply, “Just be you.”
“He's proven he can play at the highest level with the best of them his whole football career," Simmons said. “And playing in the NFL’s going to be no different for him.”
The Broncos also lost their top receiver Sunday when Jerry Jeudy sustained a high right ankle sprain that could sideline him through October.
Although Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, returner Deionte Specer and practice squad call-up Kendall Hinton of fill-in QB fame all figure in the equation, it’s likely Hamler’s workload that increases the most in Jeudy’s absence.
“Jerry had a really good camp, had a really good game going the other day and we’re going to miss him while he’s out,” coach Vic Fangio said.
Hamler dropped a long touchdown pass Sunday but came back and made a crucial catch on third down and finished with three receptions for 41 yards.
“He had the drop but it wasn’t an easy catch,” Fangio said. “He’ll get the next one.”
Hamler said he atoned for his drop because he has that short memory that cornerbacks have and the chutzpa that undrafted, overlooked players possess.
That doesn't mean it didn't bother him.
“I came out here on Monday and I told one of the assistants just throw me 100 over-the-shoulder deep balls,” Hamler said.
“And the wind was blowing the same way it was when we were in New York, so it was kind of perfect to get that repetition so I don't drop it again because that's not my forte.”
Lastly, Netane Muti is preparing to fill in for starting right guard Graham Glasgow, who left the stadium in an ambulance and spent two nights at a New York hospital because of an irregular heartbeat.
Glasgow was held out Wednesday and Fangio said he was “iffy” for Sunday.
Notes: OLB Bradley Chubb, who missed the opener with a sprained ankle, returned to practice Wednesday.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL