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Broncos roster review: safety Jamar Johnson

The Denver Broncos have a lot of competition at safety behind their two starters. Where does rookie Jamar Johnson fit into that?

NFL: Denver Broncos OTA Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos put an emphasis on the secondary in the 2021 NFL Draft when they used four of their ten selections on cornerbacks and safeties. In the fifth round, they drafted Jamar Johnson out of Indiana.

Jamar Johnson’s profile

Height: 6’1”
Weight: 197 lbs
Age: 21 years old
Experience: Rookie
College: Indiana

In his first season, Johnson figures to compete for playing time on special teams and the back up spots behind Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson.

The good

His pre-draft profile from Lance Zierlein pegged Johnson as a third or fourth round talent, so the good here is Denver snagged him in the fifth round. Zierlein believes Johnson’s high football IQ makes gives him a strong upside as a future NFL starter.

Given that pre-draft analysis and what we’ve heard through the early part of OTA’s, that upside does appear to have some basis in reality.

Johnson has already proven he has a nose for the football. This week he was able to intercept Teddy Bridgewater, which has so far been the only blemish to Bridgewater’s excellent start to Denver’s quarterback competition.

Johnson’s stated goal is to deny every single reception that comes to his area. It’s a lofty and probably unattainable goal, but you definitely like to see that kind of mentality.

“I take pride in the ball in general,” Johnson said in May. “That’s the most important thing as a DB. You’re supposed to go in there and not allow a single catch. If anything touches my hands, I’m trying to come down with a pick.”

The bad

While his coverage abilities is what got him drafted, he’ll need to work on his tackling and run support at the NFL level. The good news is he was drafted by the Broncos and the Broncos have Vic Fangio. If there was ever a coach in today’s NFL who focuses on those fundamentals it is Vic Fangio.

“He’s fit in [well],” Head Coach Vic Fangio said last week. “He’s doing good learning. We expect a lot out of the safeties from a mental standpoint, both from before the ball is snapped and after the ball is snapped. I think he’s done good in picking up what we’re doing. By no means is he where he needs to be, but I think I he’s having a nice, logical progression in that regard. I don’t remember saying he was a ballhawk, but that would be good if he was. We need him to make sure he’s a ball-carrier-tackling ballhawk, too. That’s where the big difference is going to be. He needs to tackle better than he did in college this past year.”

You can see from Fangio’s comments here that is well aware of where Johnson needs to improve and work to get better. I think Jamar Johnson landed in the perfect place to build an NFL starter-type career.

Final thoughts

Being that there is a significant talent drop off behind the Broncos’ two starting safeties, the chances for Johnson to impress and earn a 53-man roster spot is high this season. Eventually, I’d love to see him get playing time as a nickel safety. It’s a spot the Broncos need someone to fill in the way Will Parks did.

As for 2021, I believe Johnson will make the final 53-man roster and be a contributor on special teams. Beyond 2021, he has real potential to be a significant producer on the Broncos defense.