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Von Miller sets a high bar for Malik Reed

Zac Stevens Avatar
October 3, 2019

 

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When it rains, it pours.

After dismally blowing a 14-point lead and falling to 0-4 on Sunday, the Broncos were delivered the biggest blow of them all. Star pass rusher Bradley Chubb will miss the remainder of the season with a partially torn ACL.

As the Broncos admitted, there is no replacing the second-year player who flirted with breaking the NFL’s rookie sack record in 2018. The show, however, must go on.

And that show will be by committee, highlighted by undrafted rookie Malik Reed.

Despite the two-inch, 40 pound drop off from Chubb, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound pass rusher may actually provide a ray of sunshine or two at the light of Denver’s tunnel.

“Malik is ready to go. Malik is ready to go,” Von Miller said on Thursday without hesitation.

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell echoed Von, stating, “He’s ready,” as well.

Only one year ago, Chubb’s season-ending injury wouldn’t have seemed as catastrophic. Heck, Denver had Shane Ray, a former first-round pick, and Shaq Barrett, viewed as an excellent backup at the time, behind the No. 2 and No. 5 overall picks.

Now, both are long gone. Behind the top five picks are Reed, Jeremiah Attaochu—who the team signed on Tuesday—and Justin Hollins, who is floating between inside and outside backer.

To be honest, neither Miller nor Donatell’s answers about Reed were surprising. Those are the run-of-the-mill answers that are given much of the time following many injuries.

But then Von went a step, or a mile, further.

“We often talk about Shaq like, ‘Hey, Malik, you can be that too. You can have that type of success, too,’” the Super Bowl 50 MVP pass rusher said, comparing Reed to Shaq Barrett. “Shaq was here. Shaq played behind us, just like Malik is doing now. With Malik, I point to Exhibit A with Shaq all the time.”

Right now, that Exhibit A doesn’t just look like a nice piece, a great backup or even a starter. He looks like the best defensive player in the league through the first four games of the NFL season. Oh, that’s because on Thursday morning, he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In his first four games since leaving Denver in free agency, Barrett has a whopping nine sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception.

On his own, Shaq has four more sacks than the entire Broncos, two more forced fumbles and one more interception.

“I’m not surprised. I’m definitely not surprised,” Miller said of Shaq’s success. “All the plays that he’s making, he’s made them in practice. The spin versus the Rams, he’s done stuff like that. Interceptions, he’s done stuff like that here in practice. He’s had big-time sacks in games as well. I’m not surprised. Nine sacks through four games. I’m happy for him.”

Who’s another player the Broncos have seen first-hand wreck havoc on their own offense in practice?

You guessed it.

“I see him out here every day. Me and Von both knew he was going to be a dog out there,” Chubb said during the preseason, speaking about Reed.

The similarities between Barrett and Reed are eerie, too.

Both Shaq and Malik were undrafted free agents out of the Mountain West. Both are 6-foot-2. Both may have lived in the dorms, but they both certainly should have paid rent for the amount of time they spent in opponent’s backfields.

Barrett finished his career at Colorado State with 31 tackles for a loss and 18 sacks, including 12 his final year. Reed compiled 38.5 tackles for a loss and 22 sacks, finishing with two-straight eight sack seasons.

And neither got out of the grasp of the Broncos hours after the draft concluded.

Maybe, and odds would say likely, Reed isn’t the 2019 version of Shaq Barrett. But if he’s Shaq circa 2015-2018, Denver would be thrilled.

During his tenure with the Broncos, Barrett compiled 14 sacks in mainly a reserve role. If Reed approaches that, it would be music to Fangio’s ears.

While there’s certainly no replacing Bradley Chubb, if Malik Reed is anything close to Shaq Barrett, as Von Miller suggests, the Broncos will have yet again struck gold on undrafted rookie pass rushers just five years apart.

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