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Inside Job. LB Josey Jewell unlikely to play, putting onus on Alex Singleton to step up

Jewell listed as doubtful on injury report with calf injury
Broncos Football
Posted at 2:47 PM, Sep 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-10 19:29:49-04

SEATTLE — The Seahawks had no use for him. He gave them everything he had, and they moved on as if he were a rumor. Monday night represents a chance at revenge.

For linebacker Alex Singleton.

Seattle involved Singleton in six different transactions in 2015, signing, releasing, assigning and finally not keeping him on their practice squad. He's back. Maybe the 12s will boo him, too.

While Russell Wilson's return seems like a bigger deal (wink, wink), Singleton sets up as an important player for the Broncos with Josey Jewell listed as doubtful on the injury report with a calf injury. If Jewell is out — the clear expectation after he hurt himself in practice this week — Singleton would likely start in his absence. The inside linebacker position — which was not addressed in a significant way in the draft or free agency — remains a concern for the Broncos.

Jonas Griffith (dislocated left elbow) returns a month after wrenching his arm on the first play of the Aug. 13 preseason game against the Cowboys. He added muscle this offseason, jumping from 226 to 240 pounds. He boasts athleticism to run sideline to sideline, freed up to make plays with Jewell calling the signals. With Jewell out, Singleton could have the green dot on his helmet to relay coordinator Ejiro Evero's play calls.

"It doesn’t look like (Griffith's) arm was affected or his elbow has been affected. He’s playing fast, he’s using his arm and his hand, and he’s being physical," Evero said. "It’s always good to get another good football player back — explosive athlete, knows the game, plays fast. It’s going to be good.”

Singleton, 28, joined the Broncos this spring on a one-year, $1.115 million deal with a $150,000 signing bonus. He led the Eagles in tackles the past two seasons, posting 120 in 2020 and 137 in 2021. He is considered a sound tackler, but like Jewell, has not graded out well in coverage. The Broncos started Baron Browning at inside linebacker for nine games last season, but he has successfully transitioned to the outside this summer as the top reserve behind Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory.

"My confidence in the (backups at inside linebacker) is very, very high," Evero said.

In some games, the inside linebacker becomes marginalized because of nickel and dime packages. However, Seattle figures to focus on running the football with Rashaad Penny, one of their best players, while also protecting quarterback Geno Smith from turnovers. Finding a fit in the run game should be easier for Singleton and Griffith with nose tackle D.J. Jones stuffing the middle of the line.

"With Penny, he's a strong dude. A great running back. That first man in, second man in, we have to go after those legs, hit him up top, too. I am ready for the opportunity to play him again," Jones said. "I have been playing this game my whole life. If you are not ready now. you are not going to be ready. I am ready. I think everyone in this locker room is."

Penny, a former San Diego State star, delivered 135-plus yards and a rushing touchdown in four of his final five games. He aims to join Hall of Famers Jim Brown (1958) and O.J. Simpson (1976) and former standout Adrian Peterson (2012) as the only players to post 150-plus rushing yards and a rushing score in three straight games.

Even if Singleton starts, the Broncos have the versatility to be creative. Inside linebacker Justin Strnad, who has improved from a year ago, offers coverage skills and a three-safety look cannot be ruled out with Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson and Caden Sterns, the second-year pro who has seven pounds heavier, providing help in the box on occasion.

Receiver K.J. Hamler (hip/knee), outside linebacker Randy Gregory (shoulder/knee) and right tackle Billy Turner (left knee) were listed as questionable on Saturday's injury report. All are trending towards playing. ...

Former USC standout linebacker Kana'i Mauga is a strong candidate to be activated from the practice squad to provide depth on Monday night. ...

Nathaniel Hackett aims to become the fourth Broncos coach to win their debut on the road, joining Josh McDaniels, Wade Phillips and Frank Filchock. The Broncos are 8-2 in their last 10 opening games. Wilson has won three straight with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in those games.