After an October in which he racked up 28 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, three passes defensed, one interception and one forced fumble in four games, linebacker Alexander Johnson has been named Pro Football Focus’ AFC Defensive Player of the Month.
The month began with Johnson making the first start of his young career, as he and the Broncos took on Chargers QB Philip Rivers and their rushing tandem of Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon. Johnson’s play, which included a touchdown-saving interception while holding the Chargers to just 35 rushing yards, helped spark the Broncos to their first win of the season. And that was just the start.
“Since then, all he has done is earn the highest overall grade of any defender in the AFC,” PFF’s Ben Linsey wrote. “Johnson’s  total tackles without a missed tackle are the most of any player in the league over the month of October, and despite being targeted 20 times as the primary coverage defender (sixth-most among linebackers over the last four weeks), Johnson is allowing just under six yards per target on those plays.”
With a 92.4 overall defensive grade out of 100, Johnson currently ranks as the league’s top linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus. The site’s metrics rate Johnson as a well-rounded linebacker with few weaknesses — his grades in coverage (91.1), run defense (91.0) and tackling (82.5) rank first, first, second and 12th among linebackers as the Broncos head into the bye week.
Johnson’s performance hasn’t just grabbed the attention of NFL analysts. Former All-Pro Broncos linebacker Al Wilson told DenverBroncos.com in October that he thinks Johnson could be an even better player than he was.
“When you watch linebackers, you always wonder if a guy is going to show up on film,” Wilson said. “And obviously this is a guy that just shows up on film. He just seems to be around the ball, he just seems to make plays. Some of those things you just can’t coach. It’s just a natural God-given ability that he has, and he has that natural knack for the ball and instincts that you need to be a good middle linebacker. I believe that he can be an All-Pro, Pro Bowl middle linebacker if he just continues to study the game, stay focused and committed to it. There’s no question he can be one of the best middle linebackers in the business.”
In his first game of November, Johnson kept up his stout play with 13 total tackles against the Browns, bringing his total up to 41 since Week 5. His 41 total tackles are the most by a player in their first five starts in Broncos history.
After the bye week, the Broncos will need Johnson to keep up his impressive run as they prepare to face the Vikings in Week 11 with an offense that ranks eighth in the NFL in total yards per game and third in rushing yards per game.