Alexander Johnson has made the most of his first opportunity in the NFL.
After an off-the-field issue delayed his professional career, Johnson has made strides since signing with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
An injury to Josey Jewell thrust Johnson up in the Broncos’ depth chart in October, where he flourished. The 27-year-old started his first NFL game in Week 5 versus the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers.
Johnson shined on defense versus Los Angeles, recording an interception in the red zone, which helped solidify a 20-13 Broncos’ victory, all in his first NFL game.
Johnson followed-up his performance in Los Angeles by registering nine tackles, including one for a loss, in the Broncos’ shutout victory against the Tennesse Titans in Week 6.
The Broncos linebacker thrived throughout the month of October and was named Defensive Player of the Month by Pro Football Focus. PFF notes that since Johnson was inserted into the starting lineup, he has been the highest-graded player at the linebacker position.
“Johnson’s 29 total tackles without a missed tackle are the most of any player in the league over the month of October, and despite being targeted 20 times as the primary coverage defender (sixth-most among linebackers over the last four weeks), Johnson is allowing just under six yards per target on those plays,” PFF’s Ben Linsey writes.
Johnson has racked up 41 tackles to pair with 1.5 sacks in five starts for the orange and blue this season.
Johnson’s play, paired with the honors from PFF, caught the attention of Broncos’ head coach Vic Fangio.
“He’s not perfect yet, but he’s played really well for us,” Fangio said. “He’s been a nice shot in the arm for us. He’s really played good.”
The Broncos are currently on their bye week but will return to action in Week 11 versus the Minnesota Vikings.
Johnson will be one player to keep an eye on in the second half of the season for Denver. The Broncos have been thin at linebacker for some time, so Johnson’s recent performance has been a welcomed addition to the Broncos’ defense. Should Johnson continue to thrive, he could carve out a roster spot next season and beyond.