Broncos place defensive starter on injured reserve, elevate rookie to start

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The Denver Broncos moved one of their defensive starters to the injury reserve list on Tuesday, opening a door for their bright young star from Alabama. Cornerback Ronald Darby has been placed on injured reserve, and first-round pick Patrick Surtain II is expected to join the starting lineup per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Broncos injury means chance for Alabama star

After being selected in the first round with the ninth overall pick by Denver, there have been high hopes placed on Surtain. As one of the best players coming out of Alabama, Surtain’s addition to the starting lineup seemed to be a question of when instead of if.

Schefter’s report on the Broncos injury situation Tuesday appears to have answered the question.

“Broncos placing CB Ronald Darby on IR with a hamstring injury that will cause him to miss at least three weeks and will leave him week to week after that, per source. Denver’s first-round pick Patrick Surtain II now is expected to step into the starting lineup,” Schefter tweeted.

The chance to start this week could be the beginning of Surtain’s NFL legacy, following an impressive training camp and preseason for the rookie. Denver will be playing the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sep. 19 and their secondary will be excited to face a rookie quarterback in Trevor Lawrence who threw three interceptions in his debut last week.

Surtain himself began training camp by picking off his own quarterback Drew Lock during practice the first week of August. Two weeks later against the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason, Surtain jumped a route for a pick-six in his first taste of NFL action.

The Broncos hope to see his playmaking translate to the regular season for them this Sunday.

Surtain welcomed by Denver

As part of his welcome to Denver as their first-round draft pick, Surtain was asked to throw out the first pitch at a Colorado Rockies game in August. The Denver Broncos shared the video of the opening pitch on their team’s Twitter, and asked “Is there anything [Patrick Surtain II] can’t do?”

Based on Surtain’s early success in preseason action, it might be a fair question to ask about their star rookie.

It was a flashy start to an NFL career with high expectations. Surtain ended his college career with Alabama as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. NFL scouts and analysts praised his athletic abilities and Alabama football education. This combination led Denver to select him with their first-round draft pick in 2021.

“Lockdown, press-man cornerback with elite size, length and talent to match up with any brand of receiver from any place on the field,” said NFL analyst Lance Zierlein. “He was a five-star recruit coming in and he consistently competed for championships in high school and college. Surtain possesses elite physical and athletic traits with the rare combination of length and short-area quickness that allows him to play on a press-man island and phase routes on all three levels.”

“He plays to his length with plus technique and cover skills that make winning downfield a very challenging proposition. He was beaten in true man-to-man battles for 29-plus yards just five times during his career. His ability to stay connected to the route allows him to shut down yards after catch very quickly as a strong, wrap-up tackler. Run support goes in the ‘strengths’ column, as well. He’s been well-schooled at home and at Alabama. He’s wired like a future All-Pro cornerback.”