If I had a to pick a single position group that worried me the most for the 2022 Denver Broncos it would likely be this inside linebacker group. There are a lot of questions that we likely won’t have answers to until well into the season.
For example, the top linebacker on the roster is coming off a major injury and the rest behind him are all relatively unproven guys with concerns of their own.
Josey Jewell #47
Report: Jewell is the clear cut starter of the group, but he is coming off a torn pec that knocked him out for the season early last year. General manager George Paton described him as the “glue” that kept the defense together, so I would assume the expectations from the top is that Jewell is the guy on the field above all other inside linebackers this season. The team signed him to a two-year, $11 million contract this offseason.
Jonas Griffith #50
Report: Griffith was pressed into service last season as injuries began to mount up on the defense. He played especially well against AFC West rivals Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers. He had 25 combined tackles in just those two games along late in the season. He averaged over 80% of the snaps on defense in the final four games piling up 40 combined tackles on a defense that was constantly under pressure as the Drew Lock-led offense was unable to score over 13 points in three of those final four games. He is an athletic linebacker that could push for playing time if he builds on the experience he gained late last season.
Alex Singleton #49
Report: Singleton is the journeyman of the group. After signing a one-year deal with the Broncos in March, he immediately became a name to watch on special teams. He figures to have a huge role there, but I don’t see him as being a factor on the starting defense unless the position group begins to see issues with injuries.
Barrington Wade #53
Report: Wade wasn’t able to crack the field on defense last season, but he was in four games playing on special teams. He made a single half tackle in 52 total snaps on special teams. He’s not a guy I would expect to challenge for playing time, but I think he will likely beat out the rest of the guys on the roster behind him. There is plenty of potential with Wade and at 24 years of age he has a lot more to grow.
The players in this position group that I think will have the toughest path to making the roster or practice squad would be Justin Strnad, Kadofi Wright, and Kana’i Mauga. The latter two are undrafted rookies who will have to make some big splashes in training camp to even make the practice squads. It’s entirely possible, but Strnad’s status as a former draft pick by the Broncos could help him snag a spot over them if its close.
I would expect the Broncos run a lot more nickel and dime looks in the AFC West, which is a good thing for their situation at inside linebacker. There is plenty of potential there and even more questions. If Josey Jewell comes back strong then that bodes well for their bigger nickel type packages, but if they have to play more of the base 3-4 or 4-3 lineups then we’re going to have to find out if Jonas Griffith is going to be a dude in the NFL.
If he is, then all of my concerns about the position get addressed and that is one thing I’m all for. Where this ILB group will likely excel the most, however, is on special teams. I think with Tom McMahon gone the unit is already better, but this group will likely be a big part of it taking the next step as well.
Is ILB a position of concern for you heading into training camp?
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