Role unclear in August, Broncos linebacker Josey Jewell has capitalized on starting chance – The Denver Post

When the Broncos opened training camp in August, they appeared committed to Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson as their starting inside linebackers, leaving Josey Jewell’s role undefined to observers … and to himself.

“I honestly had no idea,” he said in a phone interview with The Denver Post. “I was thinking if they were going to keep Todd, I would hopefully split time with somebody on defense, and I was probably going to play a lot of special teams.”

Things changed on Sept. 4, though.

Davis was released, opening the door for Jewell to be the starter alongside Johnson. Entering Sunday’s game at Atlanta, Johnson leads the team with 56 tackles and Jewell is next at 47, including 10 in the win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

Jewell has played all but 34 of the Broncos’ 486 defensive snaps and added two sacks and 4 1/2 run “stuffs.” According to The Post’s game charting, he has three missed tackles and has allowed only one completion over 20 yards in man coverage.

“Josey has been playing very well all season,” coach Vic Fangio said. “I’ve been very, very pleased by his play. … I think he’s gotten comfortable in the system — and he’s an instinctive player anyway — but it’s gotten to this point now because he’s got a lot of playing time and (his improvement) is really showing.”

As a rookie, Jewell got a chance because of Brandon Marshall’s knee issues. Jewell started nine games and made 59 tackles in 359 snaps.

Jewell began last year as a starter, but sustained a hamstring injury in the Week 3 loss at Green Bay. Johnson got a chance the next week and has never looked back. When Jewell was healthy, he became a reserve.

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Johnson’s play made him a no-doubt starter entering this year and Jewell likely a no-doubt special teams core player. But Davis missed time because of a calf injury and Jewell’s training camp play prompted the Broncos to move on from Davis.

“Todd has done a lot for me and he’s a great player and very smart about the game and you never want to see that happen to anybody, but you want a chance to become a starter again,” Jewell said.

Jewell plays every defensive snap except when Fangio uses six-defensive back personnel (Duke Dawson), leaving Johnson as the lone inside linebacker. When on the field, Jewell has earned Fangio’s trust.

“He really quarterbacks the defense out there for us,” Fangio said.

Has Jewell The Linebacker always served as Jewell The Defensive Quarterback?

“In high school, it wasn’t much,” he said. “Probably my second year (at Iowa) and ever since then, it’s kind of been like that. I slowly moved into it there and have slowly moved into it here. It definitely gives you confidence and peace of mind that you’re able to do it and change the calls when you need to.”

As the play-caller, it’s Fangio’s voice Jewell hears in his helmet to relay the instructions. Before becoming a defensive coordinator and head coach, Fangio earned his NFL stripes as a linebackers coach.

“It’s awesome,” Jewell said of working with Fangio. “Very smart. Very intelligent. He tells us a lot of keys during the week so we have plenty of things to look at. He knows what he’s doing.”

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What Atlanta does is throw the football … a lot. The Falcons’ 292.4 passing yards per game rank second in the league. The Broncos failed to handle the prosperity produced by two consecutive wins last month and the task this week is focusing on the 2-6 Falcons instead of reveling in the comeback win over the Chargers.

“The biggest thing, and it sounds like a cliché or an easy answer, is just do you job and be detail oriented,” Jewell said. “You go back and watch (Sunday’s) game and there were multiple plays when us linebackers were out of our gap or weren’t in the right spot in coverage. There are a lot of things to work on and we know we can be a lot better on defense, especially at linebacker and starting with me.”

Butt placed on IR. Out the last two games with a hamstring injury, tight end Jake Butt was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, meaning he will miss a minimum of three weeks.