When it rains, it pours.
For the Denver Broncos, inside linebacker health is threatening to haunt the team before this regular season even begins. In the first training camp practice of the year, starting linebacker Todd Davis was injured and he remains sidelined for the entire preseason.
On Tuesday, it was his fellow starter Josey Jewell — who had taken over play calling for the defense — who strained an oblique muscle according to Nicki Jhabvala’s source. That same source said a timetable for return wasn’t clear for Jewell, but it’s all adding up to possible disaster for Denver in the middle of their defense.
“I think he’ll be fine,” head coach Vic Fangio said of Jewell on Tuesday. “He’s not going to play Thursday, but I think he’ll be fine. It’s a short-term thing.”
Without Davis, the Broncos were already searching for a backup linebacker who can step in and start this preseason. Now, they’re looking for two of those youngsters to step up immediately, and it’s increasingly likely one or two of them will be asked to play meaningful regular season reps as these injuries add up.
Luckily, Denver’s roster is loaded with youthful talent in Alexander Johnson — who shined in the Hall of Fame Game last Thursday — Josh Watson, the former CSU star, and Joe Dineen.
“They’re getting better, they really are,” Fangio said of the backers. Watson is getting better, AJ is getting better, Dineen is getting better—they are all getting better. It just goes to show that if you give them more reps, you get better. That’s why we practice.”
Johnson was on fire last Thursday night in his first chance to show off his talents, recording three solo tackles, one tackle for a loss, a near strip-sack and he broke up a touchdown pass that kept the Broncos in the game. Watson, too, enjoyed three solo tackles and each of them accounted for five total tackles in the game.
Before the Hall of Fame Game, Von Miller raved about Watson as he, “Never makes the same mistake twice,” and the former team captain at Colorado State will have to continue to listen to coaches and teammates as he improves and looks to secure even more playing time.
Davis has tweeted he will be ready for Week 1, and Fangio makes it sound like second-year linebacker Jewell will be good to go by the time the regular season kicks off, too. But, even if that is the case, it’s likely we’ll see either Johnson or Watson this regular season, and not just on special teams where each of them will be asked to make an impact.
Denver came into 2019 extremely thin at inside linebacker, and now two injuries are making that weakness a glaring one. The Broncos must hope Johnson, Watson and Dineen continue to improve daily as the regular season approaches.
Denver is in Seattle this Thursday to face the Seahawks. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT.