The Broncos have developed one of the top defenses in the NFL this season, and a major reason for their success is the stellar play from the inside linebackers.
If there were questions as to whether the Broncos' inside linebackers could be effective this season, inside linebackers Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton have put those to rest. They are Denver's top two leading tacklers, with Singleton recording 107 and Jewell totaling 85 — and both players are on pace to soar past their previous career highs.
While this is the duo's first season playing together, Jewell and Singleton have quickly developed strong chemistry. Their communication on the field is seamless, and Jewell noted that their similar playing style has helped them have success working together.
"There's a lot of talking pre-snap," Jewell said Wednesday, "whether it be we know where help us coming from ... or what kinds of plays are coming. So it's been fun to have a guy out there who I feel like plays like me, and we play similar, so we can talk a lot and the communication's very easy between us."
Singleton added that part of what makes the chemistry so strong between him and Jewell, as well as the entire inside linebacker room, is their bond off the field. By spending time together outside of football, they have grown incredibly close as a unit — and that connection has translated perfectly to their accomplishments on the field.
"It was just a good room to come into," Singleton said. "[Jewell's] obviously been the leader of it for a while now, and so to invite me in and get a lot of reps together — it's a small group, so we do a lot of stuff outside the building together, so we're just around each other all the time."
While Denver has not gotten the results it hoped for this season, the defense has played at a high level all year — and Jewell noted that playing with this group has been a fun experience.
"This defense is a blast to play in," Jewell said. "You can be very visual — you can just play football and go out there and read stuff fast, so I've enjoyed it so far."
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Because the Broncos' top wide receivers have all experienced injuries this season, three rookies have been given a major opportunity to show what they can do. Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said Wednesday that he has been extremely proud of how Jalen Virgil, Brandon Johnson and Montrell Washington have stepped up.
"All three of those guys — first, I want to be sure that they get so much credit for coming in here and going out there and competing," Hackett said. "You have Jalen, you have Brandon and you have Montrell, guys that were bright-eyed when they first got here. They didn't know where they would be, and now they are about to go play against the Kansas City Chiefs at home, which is a very big stage. These guys have worked hard. [Wide Receivers] Coach [Zach] Azzanni has done a great job getting them up to speed."
Hackett noted that the learning curve is steep for any rookie, but particularly at the wide receiver position — and while Virgil, Johnson and Washington are still developing, the coaches are doing everything they can to help the young players have success.
"For this game, there is an aspect of rhythm," Hackett said. "Every quarterback is a little bit different; every wide receiver is a little bit different. You have to figure each other out and feel that rhythm. When you have to scramble, when you're going to get the ball, how long you have to work versus press. There are so many different coverages that these guys face compared to what they faced in college. Obviously, we have a lot of different routes, also. Where are you going to line up and what position are you playing? There are so many things that go into it for these guys. I give them so much credit for all the work that they've done because you don't want to just have them in one spot and then let them go win one-on-one. You want to try to give them the best opportunity, whether it's a different formation, different motion or trying to free them up somehow."