Name: Shane Ray
Position: Edge Rusher
Height: 6'3" Weight: 245
Age: 24 Experience: 3rd
The Denver Broncos traded up with the Detroit Lions in the first-round of the 2015 NFL Draft to select former Missouri pass rusher Shane Ray with the 23rd overall pick in the draft. Ray slipped in the draft after a minor off the field issue a week prior to the draft. Before that, he was considered a top 10 or 15 player in the draft, so Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway got himself and the Broncos some nice value in the first-round.
Ray would spend his first two seasons in the NFL as a rotational pass rusher behind All-Pro Von Miller and future Hall Of Famer DeMarcus Ware. In two seasons with the Broncos, Ray totaled 68 tackles, 12 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. This past season was a promising one for Ray as he totaled 48 tackles, 8 sacks and 1 forced fumble for the Broncos. He also had 8 starts for the Broncos as veteran DeMarcus Ware missed some time with an injury.
Pro Football Focus listed Ray among their 10 most-improved 2nd-year players in 2016.
2015 overall grade: 45.8
2016 overall grade: 77.1
With veteran edge defender DeMarcus Ware laboring through injury and primarily playing as a situational rusher even when healthy, it was left to Ray to provide a strong complement to Von Miller. His jump from a rookie grade of 45.8 in 2015 to 77.1 in 2016 was evidence of his improved pass-rush skills that saw him record 45 total QB pressures, almost double the 25 he notched as a rookie, and ranking him 10th in pass-rushing productivity among 3-4 outside linebackers.
Shane Ray is looking to continue that growth this upcoming season where he figures to earn more playing time with DeMarcus Ware now retired.
“It’s knowing yourself. One of the first things I did this off-season was do a self-scout. I just went over all of my film and saw what worked for me and what I did well. I saw what I could have gotten better at. That was just point ‘A’ for me. Now I have identified what I can get better at as a player, what went great for me and what I could have done better in coverage or the run game. I have really just taken that and gone day-by-day with it by working on my footwork, my positioning and my technique. I’m continuing to do the things that help me get my leap last year and helped me make that huge jump last year.”
With Ware now retired and Shaquil Barrett sidelined with a hip injury into Training Camp, Ray figures to get all of the first-team reps this summer. He is likely the favorite to start alongside Von Miller this season and is one of the bigger x-factors for the Broncos defense.
If Ray can continue to develop into a better and more talented player the Broncos may have one of if not the best pass rushing tandems in the NFL this season. If he struggles to take that next step, the Broncos defense may begin to miss DeMarcus Ware’s presence this season.
One of my favorite things about Ray leading up to the draft was his explosive first step. You could see it on tape and it has translated to the NFL. It’s not Von Miller like, but still pretty damn good. He’s agile and also possesses good balance which is key for a pass rusher.
He also has a non-stop motor and is relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback. Ray also has strong and violent hands that he uses to get past lineman and to get after the quarterback. Add both of those attributes in with his explosive first-step and you already have the making for a damn good pass rusher.
Ray may not be the best against the run he does enough to be a factor in that part of the game. His athleticism and awareness help him out as well. This will help him become a three-down linebacker for the Broncos. Now with that said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ray sat down in some obvious run downs because of Barrett’s run stopping ability.
Ray needs to add some more strength to be a bigger factor against the run, but again that’s not what he’s here for. His job is to rush and hit the quarterback as much as possible.
I think Ray would benefit greatly if he added a few more pass rush moves his arsenal. Working with All-Pro Von Miller should help add another trick or two to his game. Improvement here should help Ray reach double-digit sacks this season.
This is something I’m not worried about personally but is probably noteworthy. Ray played only 58% of the Broncos defensive snaps last season. With Ware now retired, that number figures to go up another 20% or so this upcoming season. For example, Miller played 81% of the Broncos defensive snaps last season, so Ray figures to get something close to that if he stays healthy all season.
Shane Ray on the impact that DeMarcus Ware had on him
“Demarcus’ leadership goes such a long way. Everything that he’s taught me the past couple years—all of the opportunities I had to learn stuff from him and see things from a first-ballot Hall of Famer’s perspective is a huge blessing. Not a lot of guys get to come into the league and have guys like that that are also willing to teach like Demarcus. It’s very bittersweet for me. His presence in the locker room as a mentor and as a big brother is hard to replace. At the same time, this is how the business goes. This is how life goes. It’s time for me to step up and handle my business and take everything that he taught me and apply it to the field.”
Shane Ray’s roster status with the Denver Broncos:
Ray is a lock to make the team and is likely penciled in as a starter opposite of Von Miller this season.
The Broncos need Ray to take that next step this season. He reached a career high of 8 sacks last season, but if he can add another 4-5 sacks to his total and more pressure/hits on the quarterback, it will make the Broncos already dominant pass rush even more special.
I think Ray takes that next step this season and ends up getting 12+ sacks for the Broncos defense this upcoming season.