Every day that Jonas Griffith lines up as one of the Broncos’ starting inside linebackers, special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes has to come to grips with the fact he won’t have Griffith on his units.
“Do you want me to be sad going back to my office?” Stukes said with a laugh. “I’m disappointed about that. I’m happy for the kid.”
And the Broncos are happy with Griffith, who is playing alongside Josey Jewell. Griffith has the physical tools (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) and when the new coaching staff was hired, they were impressed by his 255 defensive snaps last year.
“No. 1, he’s a physical freak,” inside linebackers coach Peter Hansen said. “And then mentally, he’s very comfortable.”
Griffith took first-team snaps in the offseason program, ahead of newcomer Alex Singleton, and has continued that role during the first 10 camp practices.
“This is what you work for all offseason and I feel like, with training camp here and I’m running with the (starters), I can solidify myself,” Griffith said.
Griffith was literally the final option at inside linebacker last year. Jewell, Alexander Johnson, Justin Strnad, Micah Kiser, Kenny Young and Baron Browning all started games before Griffith was called upon.
Now? Johnson is a free agent, Young and Kiser are playing for Las Vegas, Browning was moved to outside linebacker and Strnad is a backup for the Broncos.
Griffith, who was undrafted in 2020, was acquired by the Broncos from San Francisco last August to play special teams. He sustained a hamstring injury in Week 3 and missed four games. As he recovered from his injury and returned to play special teams (155 snaps), the churn at inside linebacker was underway.
Already without Jewell (pectoral), the Broncos lost Johnson (pectoral) in Week 5 and Kiser (hamstring) in Week 6 to injury and ascertained Strnad wasn’t quite ready (replaced after Week 6). Browning and Young solidified the situation throughout the second half of the year, but Young sustained a season-ending concussion in Week 14.
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Enter Griffith. Finally.
The Broncos had only six double-digit tackle games last year and Griffin had two in the final three weeks (13 at Las Vegas and 12 at the Los Angeles Chargers).
According to The Post’s game charting, Griffith had one missed tackle, 5 1/2 run “stuffs” (gain of one or fewer yards) and two pass “stuffs.” He totaled 42 tackles.
“Looking at last year, when he came in, I think he calmed things down,” Hansen said. “We came in with confidence he would learn easy.”
Aiding the learning process for Griffith is a set of 100 index cards he carries in his work bag. When he watches himself on film, he writes notes that range from his footwork and keeping the right pad level.
“It’s funny because I just write down the bad plays,” he said. “I’m my biggest critic. Then I memorize the cards in a way and become a student and be more consistent.”
Griffith’s study habits are on display during the inside linebacker meetings.
“No question,” Hansen said. “I like to get things interactive in the meeting room and when I’m asking him a question, he’ll answer it before I’m done. He’s locked in. He knows the answers and spits them out pretty quickly.”
On the field, Griffith has showed good range when in zone and man coverage and there is no doubt he will be a run-game presence.
“I love that you can fly around, play sideline-to-sideline and you can add your own twists to it,” Griffith said. “That plays in my favor.”
Also in Griffith’s favor is he is playing next to Jewell, who is entering his fifth NFL season.
“It’s definitely coming along with pre-snap communication and post-snap communication,” Jewell said. “It’s always a little bit of an adjustment, but I think we’re doing really well together so far.
“It’s fun out there playing with him. Smart guy, especially for not playing a lot of games. He’s really ahead of the game so far.”
Griffith doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, but he offered what a Week 1 start would mean to him.
“In my head, I’ve played it over and over again,” he said. “I envision coming out to the field for a prime-time game. It’s a packed house and the stadium is rocking.”
“I want to show I can do everything,” he said. “When the lights are shining the brightest, that’s when I can elevate my game.”