By Chad Jensen
(247 SPORTS) – Through the first quarter of the season, it’s safe to say that rookie linebacker Josey Jewell has been a revelation for the Denver Broncos. From hardly seeing any snaps in the opener, to starting in Week 3, to essentially splitting time with Brandon Marshall on the first-team defense in Week 4, Jewell’s trajectory is definitely trending up.
To some, Jewell’s ascendance in Denver is a surprise. After he failed to post impressive numbers in the athletic testing at the NFL Scouting Combine, some draftniks didn’t believe Jewell had what it takes to hang at the next level.
The Broncos have not been surprised whatsoever by Jewell’s production thus far. It’s exactly what they saw on tape.
“That’s what he did in college,” Head Coach Vance Joseph said on Thursday. “He was a four-year starter, he was like two-time conference player of the year, he was a captain. I am not surprised he’s playing well. Again, this entire class has been really, really good for us. He’s a part of that.”
The Broncos are getting a monumental contribution from their rookie class, and there’s no doubt Jewell has been part of that. One could even argue that he’s been the most impactful defensive rookie on the team, including No. 5 overall pick Bradley Chubb.
Jewell’s stats aren’t mind-blowing, but when you consider that he hardly played the first two games, and has since been splitting time with Marshall, his production takes on a different context. Jewell’s been credited with 12 combined tackles (seven solo) and a pass defensed. But when his number was called to start in Week 3 on the road, he posted eight tackles, five of which were solo.
The play he made in coverage against the Ravens in Week 3 was impressive. And as a run defender, Jewell has been a clear upgrade over Marshall.
Jewell is an example of the NFL Combine being factored too greatly into a player’s scouting report. What truly matters most isn’t how fast a guy runs the 40-yard dash, or the three-cone drill; it’s his live-game speed. There’s a difference between game-speed and spandex speed.
And for those out there who cling to the notion that Jewell is deficient in athleticism, Coach Joseph couldn’t disagree more.
“I disagree with that,” Joseph said. “When you watch his tape, he doesn’t play to that, and when you watch in drill, he doesn’t play to that. He’s a great knee-bender, he’s quick and he’s smart. Sometimes with backers, their instincts make those guys play faster. I’ve been around 4.5 (40-yard dash time) linebackers who had bad instincts and they played that way. They played slow. Guys who run 4.7, 4.8 with better instincts played faster. He’s that way. He’s smart, he’s tough, he can tackle and he has great instincts for the football.”
Danny Trevathan was never impressive running in a straight line. But on the field of battle, he was unbelievably quick, and fast to diagnose the play. At the height of his prowess in Denver, I’d dare call Trevathan a whirling dervish. That’s where instinct comes in.
Throw on top of it all a high football IQ, a high-octane motor and a strong work ethic, and Josey Jewell emerges with more than enough tools in the kit to make an impact in the NFL. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’d hazard to guess that as the season marches on, Jewell will continue to shine and bolster the Broncos front seven as a run-stuffer and as a cover linebacker.