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Broncos Roster Review: Linebacker Justin Strnad

After an early exit due to injury in 2020, Justin Strnad is looking forward to proving himself on the field in 2021.

denverbroncos.com

If there’s one Bronco whose talent and contribution to the defense is highly anticipated this upcoming training camp, it’s definitely that of Justin Strnad.

Stripped of his chance last year to show off his athleticism and high motor due to a wrist injury just before the season started, Strnad is surely itching to prove his worth in a scheme highly dependent on athletic linebackers.

Justin Strnad’s profile

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 238 pounds

Experience: 2nd year

College: Wake Forest

The good

Part of the anticipation this season was the goods Strnad showed off during last year’s shortened/odd training camp. Prior to his injury, coach Vic Fangio seemed to be excited looking forward to seeing his potential.

“I’ve liked Justin so far,” the head coach said last August. “He’s shown some ability … in the pass defense area — [and in] the run game, we haven’t had a lot of shots [at] it yet. The inside linebacker … [is] a position that will suffer more than others with the lack of training camp time and the lack of preseason games. He’s got a lot of work [to do]. We have to speed up the process with him. Overall, I think he’s doing well. I like what I see.”

The coach added that part of his assessment was based on what he considered indicators that Strnad would “get the technique” eventually.

Strnad was considered fully recovered from wrist surgery three months ago and he’s been anticipating the chance to compete ever since.

“I’m just looking to contribute in any way, whether it’s base, sub-packages, special teams,” Strnad said. “Obviously I just want to help this team win in any way. I think we’ve got a good team this year. If everybody comes together and we have that chemistry, I think we have a chance to have a good year. I just want to be a part of that.”

Last week, Joe Rowles broke down the Broncos’ linebacker corps and had this to say about Strnad’s potential in this room:

“On the field, Strnad’s motor and athletic ability could make him a sideline to sideline missile. He has the tools to become a good coverage backer who can make plays across the middle of the field. A four-phase special teamer in college, Strnad’s willingness to explode through contact should make him a menace on the coverage units early while he tries to earn a role on defense.”

The not-as-good

Coming back from injury is never ideal, especially when it happens before getting your first live reps in the NFL.

But Strnad did have a full season to focus on the playbook, learn from his teammates, watch the defense in action and figure out where things broke down, so while the practical “rookie” will have some competition from this year’s third-round pick linebacker Baron Browning, he will also have a leg up on the newer “rookie.”

This season Fangio has already noted some positives about Strnad’s improvement.

“He’s really like a rookie on the field, but he’s doing well. We like the way he moves, and we like his attitude. He’s definitely a very conscientious player. He wants to carve out a role for himself with the defense. It’ll be critical for him to be a mainstay on our special teams. Your backup linebackers have to do that. Overall, we’ve all been pleased with Justin and where he’s at. ...We think the future is bright for him.”

Strnad’s primary goal is just to get better every day.

“I think obviously when you’re somebody like me and you haven’t played a snap in the NFL, you just automatically have something to prove,” Strnad said during OTAs last month. “Obviously I haven’t played a snap in the NFL, so I still have everything to prove. ...I’m just really trying to get better every day, trying to learn the defense so I can play fast and have a good understanding of what’s going on out there on the field. If I can do that, I think I could help this team.”

Final thoughts

A roster spot should be a sure thing for Strnad, provided he stays healthy and picks up where he left off. Depth behind Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell will be much needed, and depending on how it goes, Strnad could definitely see some significant snaps this season.

He’ll need to improve in a few key areas - run defense, route recognition, reading the quarterback in coverage and separating from blockers - but given his energy to get on the field, he has a good mindset to make those adjustments.

“I’ve played my whole life,” Strnad said. “Football means so much to me because it’s what I’ve done, it’s what I love to do. And it means a lot to my family as well. Being out there and being able to help this team win will mean a lot to me. It’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

Poll

Where do you anticipate Justin Strnad making the most impact in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Special teams
    (159 votes)
  • 42%
    Sub-packages
    (318 votes)
  • 3%
    Base defense
    (23 votes)
  • 33%
    Oh ok...all of the above.
    (251 votes)
751 votes total Vote Now