The Denver Broncos have been searching for a great inside linebacker since Danny Trevathan left for Chicago following Super Bowl 50. This season’s linebacker corps doesn’t inspire much confidence that the Broncos will find that ‘great’ to man the middle of the defense.
When it comes to what Denver currently has on the roster, there are questions about the athletic ability and inexperience of the group. So much so that there are rumors floating around that the Broncos want to trade for Roquan Smith, the Chicago Bears' outstanding linebacker.
After watching these Broncos linebackers compete in camp this week, it was clear who was rising and who was falling. Here's my inside linebacker stock report.
Josey Jewell | Riser
Despite the Smith rumors, the Broncos' next linebacker great may just emerge this season.
That player is Jewell.
The veteran is back after missing nearly the entire 2021 season due to a torn pectoral muscle. Watching Jewell in camp, it's clear he is far and away the best inside linebacker on the roster.
Jewell's technique in drills and scrimmages is head-and-shoulders above the other linebackers on the roster. If he could run a half-step faster, fans would be arguing that he is primed for an All-Pro season instead of wishing they could bring any linebacker to the team.
During Wednesday's practice, I watched Jewell flat-out run over RB Melvin Gordon in pass protection drills and he looked solid in coverage drills (the weakness in his game that everyone likes to point to). These types of plays carried over into 11-on-11 team drills.
Jewell completely blew up a run play, which is to be expected with his instincts. However, he had several solid pass coverage plays to go along with that solid run defense.
Jonas Griffith | Riser
Consider it a not-so-bold prediction, but the spot next to Jewell will be manned by Jonas Griffith, who's currently penciled in as the Broncos' other starting inside linebacker. Unless something significant happens, it's Griffith's job to lose.
Griffith isn’t quite the player Jewell is at this point, but he is big, tall, and athletic for his size. Those measurables show up on the field. He can also bring the wood, although the hit he landed when the Broncos were not in full pads was probably frowned upon.
Griffith looks better than the remaining players in the Broncos' linebacker group, and with the training camp he put together, coupled with the last four games in 2021, there is some promise that he will have a nice season.
Alex Singleton | Faller
There was nothing really impressive about the rest of the inside linebacker corps in Denver. The free-agent acquisition Singleton will be one backup, and who joins him on the second-team defense is anybody’s guess.
Justin Strnad | Faller
Strnad has contributed on special teams in the past and may have the inside track. However, it would be a significant blow to the defense if anyone besides the top-3 had to log meaningful time as a starter.
Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasHallNFL.
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