Broncos got a gem when linebacker Josey Jewell dropped in draft

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When linebacker Josey Jewell finished his career at Iowa last season, his football résumé was stuffed, margin to margin.

A three-time captain with three 120-tackle seasons, 43 starts, 50 games played and All-America and Big Ten defensive player of the year accolades, Jewell had an ocean of tangible, no-questions-asked production for the NFL's talent evaluators to consider.

It all evaporated in 4.82 seconds last February.

"Yeah, that all went out the door when they saw that time," Jewell said of his 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. "That's fine -- I'm glad it did. Everything happened perfectly here, that's just how I look at it."

For a linebacker, who at 236 pounds already was considered undersized for the rigors of the NFL, having one of the slowest times in the league's pre-draft sprint was a problem.

"It was the same thing when I got to Iowa," Jewell said. "What was it? Too slow? Bad in coverage? Doesn't move well? That's OK, that's OK, you just come in and try to do whatever you can to be the best you can be at what you do. That's my approach."

That approach, coupled with on-field production, has seen Jewell -- whom the Denver Broncos selected in the fourth round of last April's draft (106th overall) -- carve out more and more playing time with the Broncos' defense.

He played seven snaps on defense in the season opener and then 14 in Week 2. Jewell has been on the field in a greater variety of situations over the past two games -- 38 snaps on defense against Baltimore and 25 plays on defense Monday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

And almost from the start of their offseason program, the Broncos have seen this coming. They saw the instincts in Jewell's game. They looked at a pile of tackles with the Hawkeyes when Jewell was the guy chasing down and catching players who timed much faster in those pre-draft workouts.

Broncos coach Vance Joseph said Jewell's workout times had no impact on what he thought of the Decorah, Iowa, native either before the draft or now as the Broncos ramp up for Sunday's game against the New York Jets. Regarding concerns on the part of some league talent evaluators about Jewell's athleticism, Joseph said: "I disagree with that. When you watch his tape, he doesn't play to that; when you watch him drill, he doesn't play to that. He's a great knee-bender, he's quick, he's smart, and sometimes with backers their instincts make those guys play faster. I've been around 4.5 linebackers who had bad instincts and they played that way, they played slow. And guys who run 4.7, 4.8 with better instincts play faster. He's smart, he's tough, he can tackle and he has great instincts."

Jewell has worked as Brandon Marshall's backup at one of Denver's inside linebacker spots. But as the Broncos have divided the workload in their specialty packages, as well as the base defense, Jewell has seen more and more playing time when two inside linebackers are on the field with either five or four defensive backs.

Marshall has largely been the linebacker of choice when the Broncos go to the dime package -- six defensive backs.

"[Marshall and linebacker Todd Davis] know the ins and outs -- they've been here for a while, they've been playing football for a while," Jewell said. "So anything, any question I have, any question us rookies and the other guys have, we ask them. ... They've been a lot of help."

Jewell has been the proverbial front-row guy in the team meetings and already has shown many of the team's veterans, including Marshall and linebacker Von Miller, his willingness to plow through hours of game video.

"It kind of came where I came from -- Iowa ... five minutes early to everything, if you're not five minutes early, you're pretty much late," Jewell said.

Jewell says he took a look at what was said about him before he began his NFL career -- "just because I knew it would get me going a little bit" -- but he said he trusted that production would matter for the Broncos. Jewell put in the work, hoping it would be enough to make it in the league.

"I wasn't for sure," Jewell said. "People told me the NFL was faster and everything changes and some guys make it and some guys don't make it -- it just depends how hard you want to work at it ... so my feeling is I'll work at it as hard as I can and understand we all have faults on the field, things to work on, things that can be better, and I'm going to work on mine."