It’s been a couple of good weeks for second-year linebacker Shane Ray.
Against the Colts in Week 2, Ray scooped up the forced fumble by Von Miller and ran it 15 yards for a game-sealing win in the final minute.
In his first career NFL start last week against the Bengals, Ray followed up with three sacks on Andy Dalton.
His performance was the first since 2002 that a player getting his first career start had three sacks in one game. And it was also the first time in Broncos history that two players had three sacks in back-to-back games. ICYMI, Miller got the triple last week against the Colts.
@StingRay56 is beasting out there. #77 Whitworth was an All Pro last year! #broncos pic.twitter.com/mvDJmdR7hZ— Mitz Sumilang (@MitzSumilang) September 27, 2016
Speaking to Les Shapiro and Eric Goodman on Monday, Ray told the Afternoon Drive guys that he couldn’t predict three sacks, but he was definitely ready with his first start to show the world he truly is elite.
"I don’t ever put a limit on myself. Everybody has been saying ‘Oh, D-Ware is down, what is Shane going to do? Is he going to step up?’" Ray said, adding he’s always been confident in his ability. "I just knew my team could depend on me so I went out and did what I’ve been saying I could do. I just had the opportunity now."
Ray added that he’s been compared to greats ever since he was drafted, and expectations have always been high. But dropping in the draft due to a marijuana infraction put him on a different path than he originally planned. Instead of going to a lesser team and starting right away, he was brought in to the Broncos, behind one already pass-rushing legend (DeMarcus Ware) and another one in the making (Von Miller),
Ray’s sacks were an impressive display of pursuit and power, and that’s exactly what Ray was used to in college.
"A lot of my tackles are me coming free and chasing a guy down the field to get in on a tackle, things that if you’re just chilling, you wouldn’t make those plays," Ray said, calling his sacks "just a lot of good effort."
Especially on his second sack, Ray’s first move didn’t work, so he jumped in and then back out to chase down Dalton. "It was me being me."
And that’s exactly who Miller and Ware have been cultivating.
"That's how Shane is supposed to play," Miller said after the win. "That's what we've been waiting for. That's Shane Ray. That's what we brought him in to be, and it feels good to go out there and see him do it. I'm proud of him."
Von Miller 5 sacks, Shane Ray 3 sacks, DeMarcus Ware 2 sacks. I'm liking the #Broncos outside pass rush through three games.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) September 28, 2016
Ray, who is starting in place of an injured DeMarcus Ware, says the challenge of playing a quarterback who has been throwing 400-yard or 300-yard games is just what this defense wants.
"If you want to come and throw 300 yards on us, please come and try," Ray said. "I just don’t see quarterbacks dropping eight yards back and sitting in the pocket against us. If you do that, that’s where we’ve shown that we’re the best."
But if it plays out like that in Tampa this weekend where Jameis Winston has been forced to throw 45-plus times a game, Ray and his teammates won’t complain.
And they’re the best because they have so many guys who can do it. As much as Ray may covet taking the spotlight from Miller once again, the young edge rusher isn’t worried about that. His goal is to keep showing people that he is an elite player, not just one week, but every week.
"I don’t want people to say, ‘oh he didn’t get a sack this week, last week was a fluke,’" Ray said. "I refuse to allow that to happen, refuse to allow people to have that idea about me. I want to continue to go out there and be great."