For as much shade as he gets, Josey Jewell has been a solid linebacker for the Denver Broncos. Just recently, Pro Football Focus ranked Jewell as a top-20 off-ball linebacker and part of a duo that ranked No. 4 by the analytics site. It isn't hard to see Jewell's limitations that will keep him from ever being a great linebacker, but he does a lot well enough to be solid for Denver.
Prior to last season, the Broncos were willing to part ways with Todd Davis, in part, because of what they were seeing from Jewell. Jewell is a similar player as Davis was. This year, Jewell will have his work cut out to remain a starter with both Justin Strnad and Baron Browning pushing for a job.
While he isn't the most athletic of cover linebackers, Jewell is instinctive and smart. When he loses a rep in coverage, it often is because of an athletic mismatch and not being in the wrong place.
When you look at linebackers with at least 400 coverage snaps (34 total), Jewell ranked 12th in coverage grade from PFF, 10th in forced incompletion percentage, was tied 5th in pass breakups, 15th for lowest snaps per target, and 18th lowest snaps per reception. Jewell was tied 10th for the lowest missed tackle percentage on pass plays with his counterpart Alexander Johnson.
Those are pretty good numbers but when balanced out with NFL passer rating allowed, yards per reception, and an average depth of target (categories in which Jewell was ranked bottom-10 or right near it), he emerges as just a solid player overall.
Jewell's bigger issues come against the run, primarily when he gets caught on blockers. When he's allowed to chase sideline-to-sideline, he doesn't do terribly. Again, it just shows Jewell's limitations that will keep him from being a truly great linebacker.
While some fans may be unhappy with the linebacker position, it's solid this year with potentially good depth. The Broncos have at least two serviceable and reliable linebackers and Jewell is one of them.
The question is, with his limitations, how much more can Jewell grow as a player? If it's going to happen, it'll be under the expert hand of Vic Fangio.
Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.
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