Broncos rookie minicamp observations: Pat Surtain II leading way, Baron Browning comfortable at inside linebacker

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May 15—Pat Surtain II stood out at Broncos rookie minicamp this weekend.

Not only does he look the part, donning the No. 2 jersey and standing at 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, he was also leading the 28 players who participated in the two-day camp. He made sure to be the first player to do every drill.

"I've tried to take on that leadership role and lead by example — giving maximum effort," Surtain said. "I'm trying to be a figure that all the rookies can look at. Just going through every drill as fast as I can and working hard through it."

Surtain comes to Denver with high expectations, after the Broncos decided to draft him over a quarterback at No. 9 in the first round.

"I've heard it before. I try to cancel out all that noise. I just have to go out there and compete and make them think wrong," Surtain said. "Going into the league as a rookie, you always have to have a chip on your shoulder no matter what. You have to go out and prove yourself again."

It's yet to be determined where Surtain will play, with the Broncos cornerbacks being full of veteran talent in Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby and Bryce Callahan. He'll play either outside at corner or inside at nickel. Coach Vic Fangio said they're going to work him at both. He played both at Alabama.

"If he's capable of having positional flexibility, that helps us get our so-called best players on the field at the same time," Fangio said. "We need corners that can play inside. He has experience doing that in college. I think he's probably capable of it. We won't know until we put him in there. He's definitely a guy we want to teach the inside position to sometime quickly."

But only a couple of days in, Surtain isn't too worried about where he'll play and is instead focusing on what he can learn and how he can lead as a rookie.

"What I try to do — I'm trying to learn the whole defense right now," Surtain said. "I'm trying to see what the safeties do, and what the nickels and corners do, so when I'm on the field, I'm confident and I'll know everybody's roles."

Baron Browning comfortable inside

Baron Browning is quite possibly not only the most athletic Broncos rookie but maybe the entire roster. But Browning, who was picked in the third round, doesn't want to be known as just athletic.

"I don't want to be known as a guy who is an athlete," Browning said. "I want to be known as a guy who is a technician. That's where my focus is."

Right now, the Broncos have Browning at inside linebacker, instead of outside where he played at Ohio State and said he's most comfortable at after being drafted. But that's changed. He said Saturday he's starting to feel more comfortable inside.

Either way, the Broncos feel like Browning is someone who can help them next season and beyond. He'll likely compete with Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell for one of the two starting spots at inside backer.

"It's always different gymnastics every time you undertake a linebacker that has some versatility," Fangio said. "We are going to leave him at inside linebacker here for a good bit, see how he does and go from there."

Quinn Meinerz feeling the love from Broncos Country

If there was an award for most-liked rookie at rookie minicamp, Meinerz would probably win it.

The 6-3, 320-pound center/guard from Wisconsin-Whitewater has become a fan favorite in Denver without taking a snap. His famous belly paired with his charismatic personality has him already feeling love from Broncos Country.

"To have the fans have your back is a cool experience through social media," Meinerz said. "I'm not a big social media guy, but to have a lot of messages welcoming me to Broncos Country was really pretty cool. I haven't been able to have the time to explore the Denver area. I go to my hotel and study all night. There will be plenty time for that later."

Like Browning, Meinerz is seen as someone who can play two positions at center and guard. Fangio said they'll start him at center, but Meinerz said he's trying to learn all three of the interior offensive line positions.

"I'm definitely trying to learn it from both guard (positions) and center," Meinerz said. "As an interior offensive lineman, it's kind of expected to know all three of those positions so you can slide in. It not only adds value to myself as a player, but it adds value to the team to where I can gain that trust to be able to play all three positions."

Javonte Williams wanted No. 3

Unfortunately for second-round pick Javonte Williams, quarterback Drew Lock already owns No. 3 for the Broncos. So the North Carolina running back settled on No. 33.

Still, No. 33 looked good on Williams at rookie minicamp, hoping to prove something.

"With them trading up to pick me in the second round, I feel like I have to return the favor," Williams said. "Just come in every day, work hard and show them what I can do."

Williams said he wants to help any way he can in his first season and has already spoken with Melvin Gordon, who offered him some advice ahead of camp. He and Gordon are expected to be quite the duo, as Williams brings a new spark to Denver's rushing attack.

"We like his skill set. We think he's a good all-around back," Fangio said. "He can run the ball inside. He has good contact balance. He is capable in pass protection, which is a really important thing to have in your backfield."

Andre Mintze standing out as UDFA

While everyone is focused on the top picks, there are 11 undrafted free agents hoping to make the 53-man roster. An undrafted free agent has made the Broncos' roster 16 of the past 17 years.

One of the names to watch this year is Vanderbilt outside linebacker Andre Mintze. At 6-3, 246 pounds, Mintze was a solid player for Vanderbilt, totaling 75 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also ran an impressive 4.59-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.

"He played good in college. He had the misfortune of going undrafted. We liked his workout day. We were happy to get him as a free agent," Fangio said. "Being an (undrafted) free agent isn't a terrible thing. A lot of those guys make it. ... This guy's got talent and he's got ability. We're happy to give him an opportunity."

Altitude is no joke

Every rookie who spoke with media this week said the altitude was one of the first things they noticed when out on the practice field.

"I'm still feeling it," Surtain said with a laugh. "I'm still feeling it, for sure."

The altitude is certainly an adjustment for rookies, with Dove Valley being 5,764 feet above sea level. But they'll have all summer to get used to it.

"The altitude will slow you down regardless," running back Javonte Williams said. "I don't care how fast you want to go. Just getting used to that, I feel like that's the biggest hurdle. The coaches are telling us to slow down if we're going a little too fast."

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