Second-year linebacker Josey Jewell has quickly moved from a 2018 fourth-round pick to a key starter entrenched in the middle of Vic Fangio's defense. After starting nine games as a rookie, Jewell has served as the defensive signal caller through nearly all training camp and the preseason as his co-starter Todd Davis recovers from an injury. During a break from one of those practices, we caught up with the Iowa product about Fangio's storied history with inside linebackers, how he's adjusting to a leadership role and what he and Todd Davis were thinking on the night of the 2019 NFL Draft.
What have been your initial impressions of Head Coach Vic Fangio?
Josey Jewell: "Definitely a defensive guru, I guess a football guru overall is a good way to put it. Just knows the game, loves the game and a great teacher of it, so everybody's been loving him so far."
How much do you know about the inside linebackers that he's coached during his career? There are three Hall of Famers in Kevin Greene, Rickey Jackson and Ray Lewis.
JJ: "We've heard about a couple of them and you've seen a couple of them on TV and you relate them back to him. You've seen some film. On our iPads we've got some stuff of his old players and they're really good ones. He's had a good history of them, and hopefully we can keep that going. It just puts a little pressure on us and I think we can do a good job of that."
Obviously the Hall of Fame is a really lofty goal, but does Vic's track record make you think This guy can help make me a lot better?
JJ: "Oh my God, yeah. In every facet of football, I believe. We've got Coach [Reggie] Herring, who's a great coach and then on top of that we've got Vic, who's also a great linebacker and defensive coach overall. I think he gives us a great way to be the best we can and to increase our potential."
Where do you think you can take the biggest jump in your game this season?
JJ: "I think there's a lot. I think there's a lot of mental stuff, just from the first year to the second year. And then coming off that, it's going to be coverage — just how to outsmart the offense and put yourself in the best defense and the best leverage as possible, which will help your coverage at the end of the day. I think that's a big one."
How do you think your leadership responsibilities have changed this year as a full-time starter?
JJ: "It's coming up a little bit more and more every day. Since Todd's out right now and we're working with that and we're working with some other linebackers, you've definitely got to be able to step up to the plate and try to be able to lead people. Lead when you can, and we've got a lot of leaders on the team, so listen to them when you want. You're also going to have to show a little bit of leadership in the room, especially with Todd out."
Is that an odd part of being in the NFL? It's your second season and you're already counted on to be that leader.
JJ: "I had some of that in college a little bit with just the position people and how it all worked out. I was kind of used to it. You've just got to do the same thing. It's just with different people. We've jelled together pretty well right now. Hopefully we can keep on going."
What were you thinking last year during a Week 3 game in Baltimore, which was your first start of your career?
JJ: "Definitely a lot of nerves. But I think Coach Herring got me ready quite a bit and Todd and [former Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall] helped out a lot just to be able to understand my job and how to do it to the best of my abilities. I think I had a pretty good game that game, and they helped me out tremendously to be able to work on every facet of my game and just to be able to take it play by play and not try to overhype myself and get too excited. They did a great job with me on that one."
Do you have a highlight or a favorite moment from last year?
JJ: "I kind of put last year to bed. I haven't thought about it too much. I watched a bunch of tape on it, but I put that to bed and hopefully I'll just make some great memories this year."
How much attention did you pay to the first round of this year's NFL Draft — and what'd you think when the team passed on selecting a linebacker?
JJ: "Whatever they wanted to do, it wasn't up to us. Me and Todd were talking during the draft and we were both talking, so anything that happened, we were still going to play our best ball and go out there and try to do our best and still try to start, so whatever would've happened, I think it's their decision. But I'm happy with what they did and me and Todd hopefully step up this year. I'm feeling pretty confident."
When the Broncos didn't take a linebacker, was there a moment where you guys said This is on us now?
JJ: "Yeah, Todd called me right after. We talked for a little bit. He was like, Man, they trust in us, so let's get it done right this year. Let's do everything we possibly can. Let's get in the playbook and let's show them why they trusted us and why they put confidence in us. He's a great leader overall. He definitely can talk you into some good things."