ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — At his best, Courtland Sutton is nearly impossible to stop.
In 2019, as he marched to a Pro Bowl appearance, Sutton hauled in a variety of circus passes.
He caught a deep, over-the-shoulder throw against the Vikings, made a reaching grab in the end zone against the Browns and secured a diving, one-handed touchdown catch against the Chargers.
Sutton has shown plenty in recent weeks following a season-ending ACL injury in 2020; he scored a touchdown against the Rams and caught several deep passes during training camp. Those leaping, acrobatic catches, though, haven’t been as commonplace as they have been in previous year.
But that doesn’t mean there’s any reason to doubt Sutton.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater knows that when the Broncos take the field Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the best version of Sutton will come out. He saw enough during their lone game together — a preseason contest against the Rams — to know as much.
“I saw a side of ‘Court’ that I had never seen,” Bridgewater said Wednesday. “And honestly, even though he may have been limited to different things out here, it’s like, ‘Man, just get this guy to Sunday.'”
On game day, Bridgewater saw a player who wasn’t limited or hindered by his recovery from the early-season ACL tear.
“He’s a dog,” Bridgewater said. “He’s out there and his energy is contagious. I’m on the sideline and I might have missed him on a throw, and he comes up to me like, ‘Nah, man. We got this. Trust me. You know I’m going make a play, they can’t check me.’ That confidence — and of course in practice you tone things down a little bit — but to see it on game day, it’s like, ‘Man, let’s get this guy to Sunday because he’s going to lay it all on the line for the team.’ I have all the trust in the world in ‘Court’ and that entire room.”
Sutton’s progress has accelerated in recent days, and Head Coach Vic Fangio said the fourth-year player has taken a step forward since the days before that Rams game.
“It’s really gone good,” Fangio said. “I think the last 14 days or so, it’s really turned the corner. He had his moments in camp where he looked good, but then some days where he was a little hesitant. I think the last two weeks, he’s really turned the corner and he’s looking more like himself.”
Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said the team had planned to ramp him up as the season approached, and he thought Sutton did a “great job” in his only preseason action.
“You get out there in an uncontrolled setting like a ball game, get knocked around — he had to change direction a bunch of times, he had to block,” Shurmur said. “And then I think he gained some confidence from being out there and doing it. It’s always the case when you come back from a leg injury where you’ve got to get used to it again.”
On Sunday against the Giants, Sutton will aim to take the next step — and a big leap into the end zone.
Ninth-overall pick Pat Surtain II will see his first regular-season action on Thursday, and he’ll enter the year as one of the favorites to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The rookie cornerback said as he approaches the season, he won’t allow himself to focus on the possibility of earning that award.
“You can’t really look forward to those expectations,” Surtain said. “You got to do what you got to do first. You know, you just got to focus on team goals, and team goals come first before individual goals. You just got to focus on that. But in the meantime … you just got to work [and] keep on working hard each and every week.”
Perhaps what makes Surtain an intriguing preseason choice for the award is his versatility. Fangio has discussed Surtain’s rare ability to play multiple positions as a rookie, and it’s possible Surtain could be an option at outside cornerback, slot cornerback or as a tight-end stopper in certain packages.
“His size and length [are] helpful,” Fangio said on Sept. 2 of Surtain covering tight ends. “When you play a good receiving tight end — which we do — everybody says, ‘Well, they’ve got to put a DB on him.’ Some of those guys like when a DB is on them because there’s such a size discrepancy. [When] you put a linebacker on them, and the size is maybe evened up but the athleticism — there could be a discrepancy. There really is no perfect position to put on the guy. You’d like a DB that has size or a linebacker that has some DB movement qualities. In Patrick’s case, he’s got the size to possibly do that and the length.”
Fangio said Surtain has “gotten better each and every week” in his various roles and deemed the young player “very capable” in each spot.
Surtain said he’ll continue to help the Broncos wherever they require assistance.
“It’s been a challenge, but I think it helped me grow in the defense,” Surtain said. “Just learning those different positions will help my value on a team. … And I’m just helping the team wherever they need me, so that’s my role right now.”
Giants head coach Joe Judge said he expects Surtain — and the rest of the Broncos’ defensive backs — to pose a challenge on Sunday.
“He’s a flexible piece and he’s been coached extremely well on all levels,” Judge told Denver media on Thursday. “He did a heck of a job. Everyone was very conscious of him coming out in the draft, and obviously they’re doing a perfect job coaching him in Denver right now to up him in position. Then you look at other guys like [CB Ronald] Darby and [CB Kyle] Fuller on the perimeter right there, it’s not that this guy’s not playing 100 snaps a game through lack of ability, it’s just they’ve got a lot of talented players back there. You would expect to see him throughout the game in however they’re going to mix and manage those players, but I would expect to see all the defensive backs. They’re very, very talented. They’ve obviously put an emphasis on adding to that phase of the game in this offseason. Defense is really where this thing starts up front with these guys and you have to defend it from the back end forward to make sure you get the pass rush there.”