Justin Strnad had his opportunity to make an impact as a rookie stolen from him when he suffered a season-ending wrist injury.
Now, in a strange turn of fate, he could be gifted back that opportunity as a result of Monday’s groin injury to Josey Jewell, who is expected to miss at least 10 days of practice.
Strnad was quick to fill in for Jewell on the first-team defense and immediately made his presence felt Monday, and built on that performance Tuesday.
On Tuesday he came up with an excellent interception off a pass that ricocheted off of Melvin Gordon and terrorized running backs during the pass-rushing drill in 1-on-1’s.
He also made a handful of nice plays during the team-scrimmage portion of practice, showcasing that he has the traits to be a perfect complement to Alexander Johnson’s talents.
After practice, Strnad’s coaches, Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell were quick to heap praise on him.
“[Strnad]’s done well,” Fangio told the media following Tuesday’s practice, with a little added excitement in his voice. “I see him getting better and better every day. This is a great opportunity for him, and so far, he’s responded. He’s a long way from being ready, but I do see him getting better every day. Without even watching today’s tape, I saw some good stuff out there.”
This is also only the start of Strnad’s audition, as Donatell noted.
“So far, so good,” Denver’s defensive coordinator said. “We have to look at the film from today. It was the first real test in pads. That’ll be an ongoing evaluation.”
Alexander Johnson echoed the fact that Strnad has been incredibly impressive so far during his own media session.
“[In] working with him the few days we have, he’s been rotating in with me,” Johnson said. “He’s been doing really great. You can tell he’s flowing good, getting to his assignments, and doing really good.”
Though, he’s still inexperienced and needs growth. One area in which it does seem like Strnad could improve though is in the area of communication.
“I feel like communication, that’d be [the] thing,” Johnson said when asked about the difference between playing alongside the two different linebackers. “Josey [Jewell] has been in the system just as long as I have, so me and Josey are a little up to snuff on different communication techniques and stuff like that. But as far as playing-wise, [Strnad]’s out there busting his tail, doing his job.”
If Strnad keeps doing those little things, the communication will likely soon follow, and who knows, maybe the starting job will follow as well.