Denver Broncos cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian emerged onto the scene last season amidst a shift in personnel after the defense struggled in the first half of the season. Not only did he stand out in the nickel, but he’s showcased a hungriness to play wherever the team needs him to this offseason.

Denver Broncos CB Ja’Quan McMillian aims to build off of last year

Ja’Quan McMillian was one of the biggest standouts in the Denver Broncos offseason program, and we had a chance to catch up with him as he now awaits the start of training camp.

Last year, we had the chance to talk to him during training camp, really before we were able to see him go on the run that he did in the regular season. It wasn’t a surprise to those who watched him in camp last year, but we asked him whether or not anything has changed with his level of preparation this offseason compared to last year.

“No, I’m trying to just be consistent,” McMillian told Mile High Sports. “Just trying to build off what I did last year and just trying to take that next step mentally and just trying to process more. Now that I know the playbook, having been in it for two years now, getting it down and just anticipating things based on what the offense is giving me, taking the information there and building off of what I did last year.”

Having the same defensive scheme and playbook in place for another year brings a level of continuity that many players have raved about during the offseason program. It limits the amount of install time they have to run through and allows them to play free, which is an important element for players.

“It’s important to me,” McMillian said. “Basically building off of last year, obviously I knew the defense, but just digging in more and knowing different spots, what the safety’s got, what the backer’s got and that helps me. If I know where my help is, I can play differently and use my help. That’s a big part of just knowing the playbook and building off of last year.”

Last season, McMillian appeared in 16 games for the Broncos, starting three of them. He was a difference maker, snagging two interceptions, forcing two fumbles, defending five passes in the air, recovering two fumbles, sacking quarterbacks twice on nickel blitz looks, and consistently impacting against the run, accumulating 51 tackles. His seven tackles for a loss were the most by any Broncos DB last year.

Positional versatility has become an area of emphasis for Denver defensively this upcoming season, especially in the secondary. While McMillian is proven in the slot, he also received looks in the team’s offseason program playing on the outside.

“I feel like it’s good for the team,” McMillian said about the team’s ability to play guys at multiple positions. “Whatever they ask me to do, I can go do. If they ask me to play corner I’ll do that, if they want me to play in the nickel I’ll do that. It’s important just to be able to play inside and out. Opposing teams can’t isolate me or put me in certain situations because I know how to play that. If Pat [Surtain] has to match somebody on the inside and I’ve got to slide out to the outside, we can do that, and we’re able to do that. Whatever the team needs me to do is most important, and I’m ready to do whatever they need me to do.”

Denver’s secondary has a different theme to them under new defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator Jim Leonhard, who played 10 years in the NFL at a high level. Now, he’s sharing that information and experience with his players. Leonhard is somebody McMillian has gravitated toward this offseason to gain as much knowledge as he can.

“I was just telling one of my teammates recently that [Leonhard] knows what it’s like,” McMillian said of Leonhard. “He’s literally been in our shoes, so I go to him to ask him questions. He’s been in situations and played a good amount in the league, so just knowing that he played there, I can just go to him, and he understands. He’s a similar size to me, so having played slot and play safety, it feels good knowing he’s somebody that’s coaching me and that he’s been there before.”

Ja’Quan McMillian has quickly emerged into one of the most exciting young defensive backs in football based on his 2023 campaign. He’ll be a player to watch for Broncos Country in July at training camp.