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Predicting Who Will Start Next to Josey Jewell at Inside Linebacker

Josey Jewell has a starting job locked down but who will his partner be this year?
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NFL training camp competitions are the ultimate meritocracy. In the sweltering summer heat, players contend head-to-head while coaches will ultimately select the most capable athlete for the starting job. 

From the players' perspective, it’s two dogs fighting over one bone with the winner's financial future on the rise and the loser's NFL shelf life in question. On the pristine fields of UCHealth Training Center, the camp battle proces will begin for the Denver Broncos.

GM George Paton knows that the Broncos compete in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. The second-year general manager beefed up the Broncos' ability to compete by acquiring quarterback Russell Wilson and adding reinforcements at outside linebacker, defensive tackle, and slot corner. 

Paton opted to re-sign reliable inside linebacker Josey Jewell to a two-year, $11 million contract, leaving the other slot up for grabs. Who will start next to Jewell? Let's break down the candidates. 

Alex Singleton

The former Philadelphia Eagle was signed to a one-year, $1.1M contract with additional performance incentives up to $750,000. Singleton began his career in 2016 as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks. 

The journeyman has been on five NFL rosters and spent two years in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders. Last season with the Eagles was Singleton’s standout year. 

Like the incumbent Jewell, Singleton is an intelligent player that has a nose for the football. In 2021, as the starting inside linebacker for a majority of the season, Singleton led the Eagles with 94 solo tackles. 

He did show a deficiency in pass coverage, but Singleton’s superpower is his special teams prowess. He was selected by his Eagles teammates and coaches to be a team captain last season. His ability to help resurrect the Broncos' abysmal specials teams unit is a key reason Paton took a chance on Singleton.

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Jonas Griffith

Griffith began his time in the league in 2020 as an undrafted free agent by the San Francisco 49ers. After bouncing between the Niners and Indianapolis Colts, Griffith was acquired by the Broncos in a trade last year. 

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound 'backer earned significant playing time in 2021 due to season-ending injuries to Denver's starters Jewell and Alexander Johnson. During this time, Griffith seemed to gain confidence in the scheme which helped him take steps forward in his run-stopping and pass-defending abilities. 

In his first year of getting significant playing time, he earned a run-stopping grade of 75.9 and a pass coverage grade of 55.4 via Pro Football Focus. Griffith’s high level of play could be a contributing factor in making the decision to move Baron Browning from inside linebacker to outside linebacker.

Projected Winner: Griffith

The biggest threat to the Broncos not making the playoff is the high-octane passing game of their AFC West rivals. A linebacker that can hinder the production of Kansas City Chiefs' tight end Travis Kelce or Las Vegas Raiders' Darren Waller will be a key component in determining who will come out on top in the camp battle for the starting linebacker. 

Griffith’s comfort in playing in a similar defense, as well as his athleticism and speed (4.62s), give him a clear advantage. 

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