The Denver Broncos defense found themselves with their back against the ropes after four games in 2019.
Little did anybody know that after struggling the first four games of the 2019 season that an inside linebacker with tenacity and grit would be one of the more critical reasons why the Denver Broncos dramatically turned things around.
What were the Broncos going to do? A week after the team surrendered over 225 yards rushing to Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio sat down with his coaching staff and discussed options that could help the team perform better, and finish contests.
One of the moves discussed was to see what Alexander Johnson could add to the defense by replacing previous starter Josey Jewell. In his first game of action in a road game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Johnson showed Broncos Country and the coaches just why he was the necessary guy for the job.
Like a lightning bolt in a blue sky (pun intended) Johnson was all over the field, tracking down Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler out of the backfield, and drawing some coverage assignments on the tight end.
The stage was set, and it was Johnson’s time to shine. The Broncos’ defense had its back against the goal-line with Philip Rivers aching to get the Chargers into the end-zone.
Johnson spied the middle of the field as the Chargers had a tendency to spread things out and run crossing patterns underneath. Calculated, Johnson read the eyes of Rivers who was looking for the crossing wide receiver underneath and tracked depth at a 45-degree angle to snatch the football out of the air.
The Broncos would go on to win behind a stellar defensive performance, but the real test would come against the eventual NFL rushing leader in Derrick Henry the week after.
The Tennessee Titans came to town and the talk all week long on national media, and local sports radio questioned whether or not the Broncos could slow down Tennessee’s brute back.
In hindsight, the Broncos made a statement. They held one of the league’s most dominant rushers to 28 total yards on 15 carries and the defense would force a shutout. This was powered by Johnson’s 1.5 sacks on Ryan Tannehill and Marcus Mariota and nine tackles.
Fans in Broncos Country would see the star-power of Johnson increase all throughout the remainder of the season. As we all patiently await for our routines to return to normal, I felt it was necessary to discuss how critical Johnson will be once again for the team’s defense in the 2020 season.
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I recently conducted a film review on what makes Johnson so valuable to the defense. Between Johnson’s football IQ, speed, and athleticism, he instantly improved the defensive product on the football field.
With the offseason additions of Jurrell Casey on the defensive line combined with the return of Shelby Harris at defensive end, the defense could find success in its back-end due to the presence of what the pass-rush could be.
Bradley Chubb will be returning from a torn ACL and Von Miller enters the new league year hungrier than ever. That will allow Johnson to spy athletic quarterbacks and also blitz more freely into the A/B-gaps respectively.
All things considered, the Broncos look very strong on defense on paper and we’ll get to hear more dinosaur noises from Johnson on the field in 2020.