It's that time of the year again. Mile High Report begins our annual 90 players in 90 days roster breakdown. Last year went fairly well, but starting today and through August 27th, we'll break down every player on the Denver Broncos roster.
Name: Shane Ray
Position: Edge Rusher
Height: 6'3" Weight: 245
Age: 23 Experience: 2nd
The Denver Broncos traded up in the 2015 NFL Draft to select linebacker/edge rusher Shane Ray in the first round. He was supposed to be a top 5 to 10 pick in the draft but fell because of some minor off the field issues. So the Broncos got a bit of a steal in Ray.
Now Ray's rookie season wasn't all that great, but it wasn't supposed to be. He missed some time due to an injury and was playing behind Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware as well. Also, the emergence of Shaquil Barrett ate into his playing time as well.
Shane Ray played 190 snaps in 2015 and totaled 20 tackles, 4 sacks 4 quarterback hits, and 15 quarterback hurries. Not an awful stat line for a guy who played on average 14 snaps a game.
Now Shane Ray enters the 2016 season with a chance to win a starting outside linebacker job this summer. Veteran linebacker DeMarcus Ware is already having some back issues and is another year older. So the Broncos could limit him to a certain number of snaps per game and it's likely he'll miss some time due to an injury. So there's an opportunity for Ray to earn a much bigger role in the Broncos defense this year.
NFL.com just recently said Shane Ray could be a "breakout player" in 2016.
It's hard to carve out a role as a designated pass rusher (DPR) when playing behind the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, but Ray could emerge as a wild-card playmaker for the Broncos in his second pro season. The energetic defender not only added a few pounds to his chiseled frame, but he also added a couple of power maneuvers to enhance his patented speed-rush move off the edge. With the 33-year-old Ware's role expected to change due to injuries and age, Ray could become Miller's sidekick as the Broncos' DPR2.
Earlier this offseason, Ray told reporters he is much more comfortable this offseason and knows what he is doing on the football field. He can do more than he did last year which should increase his snaps this year.
"I feel like I’m very comfortable. This offseason I’ve put in tons of work and just made myself more of a complete player. Last year, I was limited to playing a lot of WILL linebacker, which was majority rushing. But now, I can play the SAM just as freely as I played the WILL as far as drops and coverages and just knowing my assignment and what I’m supposed to do. It’s not really a rush and a panic now that I’m more relaxed and I’m more comfortable. I know where I’m supposed to be and how I’m supposed to play the technique."
With Ray being more comfortable and potentially a starting job open, I could see Shane Ray having a big season for the Broncos opposite of Von Miller.
I hate Tom Brady and love anyone who enjoys hitting Tom Brady. Well, Shane Ray said he enjoys hitting Tom Brady and that alone makes him awesome in my eyes.
"I’d say Tom Brady. Definitely Tom Brady. I enjoyed hitting Tom. That was fun for me. It’s always fun to see a quarterback’s reaction when you hit him, and I think I hit Brady maybe three or four times that game. And he was just looking at me like, ‘Who is this guy? And why is he hitting me?’ So that was a good feeling for me."
Here's what I'm talking about.
Ray focused on his body and diet this offseason. He cut out the fast food and fried foods and stuck to a lean diet. He also hit the weight room and added another 10 pounds of muscle to his frame. Ray believes he is in the best shape of his life.
"I think I put on almost eight pounds of muscle in this offseason. I combined that with a really strict diet. One thing that I struggled with as a rookie was having my meals and eating properly. You can’t just treat it like it’s college and go eat fast food. Everybody heard Von say you can’t eat cheese sticks and put that kind of fuel in a Ferrari. The biggest thing for me was treating my body as such. This offseason I really harped on eating right and making sure I had the proper meals and the proper amount of calories. I think that goes with being a pro with recovery as well. I’ve really excelled in that aspect of being a pro and I think that the results that my body has received—my body fat is the lowest it’s ever been. As a player, I feel as big, fast and explosive as I’ve ever felt."
Ray was already an explosive athlete who had elite power for a player of his size, so I'm anxious to see what he can do now.
With Ray being in the best shape in his life and more comfortable in Wade Phillips defense, he really should have a breakout season this year. I touched on this earlier, but with DeMarcus Ware's back already acting up and him probably taking a lesser role in the defense, Ray has an opportunity to be a starter.
He has all the potential to be an elite pass rusher and the size and power to set the edge against the run. All the tools are there for him to be great.
Ray has the talent to make the Broncos edge rushing unit even better than it was last season. That's an exciting thing to think about.
As PFF noted above, Ray was in the red in a few different categories last season so he will need to improve on his game some this year. The area he struggled the most last season was against the run. PFF graded him at a -3.1 last season. So if he wants to play more snaps this season he will need to show he isn't a liability against the run.
Shaquil Barrett could ruin Shane Ray's chance to win a starting job this season. He was a breakout player for the Broncos defense last season and ended up playing more and outplaying Ray. Barrett also figures to improve his game from last season, so Ray will be competing with him for snaps this season.
Obviously all four of these guys(Von, Ware, Shaq and Ray) will get their snaps this season, but the amount each gets depends on their performance. Ray could end up getting as many as Von this season, or repeat his 2015 season and get the least amount of snaps between the four.
Ray on the added pressure on him this season.
"Definitely. My expectations for myself going into this offseason—I went straight to work. I probably took a week-and-a-half off and went down to Florida and really just got it in. I wanted to be bigger, faster and stronger and when I came back be able to combine that with the knowledge that I have now. My expectation for myself—I set the bar high for myself last year and the bar hasn’t changed. I still want to dominate and be the best I can be for this team."
Obviously, Ray will make the team, but his role will be determined this summer.
DeMarcus Ware's health figures to be an issue off and on this season, so I expect his snaps to be limited this season. So this will allow someone to earn more snaps. I think Ray could take those snaps but the competition between he and Shaquil Barrett will be a competitive one.
With him being in the best shape of his life and knowing the defense better I'm anxious to see how he performs this summer.