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Broncos Roster Review: Linebacker Malik Reed

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Getting a baptism-by-fire in Vic Fangio’s defense last year, the second-year outside linebacker has some great experience heading into year two.

NFL “u2013 MINNESOTA VIKINGS VS. DENVER BRONCOS Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

In last year’s roster review series, Sadaraine noted that the undrafted Malik Reed, outside linebacker from a school not known for churning out NFL talent on a regular basis, “could be a diamond in the rough for the Fangio-led Denver Broncos in 2019.”

Because of an unfortunate and untimely season-ending injury to edge rusher Bradley Chubb, that’s exactly what Reed became for the Broncos.

#59 Malik Reed
Age 23, 6-foot-3, 235 pounds
College: University of Nevada

The writing was on the wall last year in preseason when Reed came out of his three-game preseason stretch with four sacks. As an outside shot to make the 53-man roster, Reed proved his worth and then kept it up by dominating on special teams to begin the season.

But the edge rusher was called into active starter duty after Bradley Chubb tore his ACL in Week 4 and was done for the year.

Reed wasn’t nicknamed “Dream Killer” by Von Miller for no reason. At the time of the crowning, Justin Simmons noted “it’s because he crushes quarterback’s dreams.”

Reed liked the name.

“It’s cool; I’ve never been called that before,” Reed said after the final preseason game in 2019. “But to be dubbed that by Von Miller, I guess that’s pretty special.”

The good

Starting opposite Miller for eight games, Reed notched a pair of sacks against Detroit QB David Blough and Jacksonville QB Gardner Minshew and even stuffed current teammate Melvin Gordon behind the line of scrimmage last year against the Chargers.

More importantly, in a lost season in which the Broncos dug themselves in an 0-4 hole early on, playing time as a starter and a baptism by fire in the Vic Fangio defense will prove invaluable this season as Reed will look to build upon his intuitive tracking and closing speed on the ball carrier as he takes great angles to make his tackles.

Enjoy this film breakdown from Cody Roark who points out both Reed’s skill on special teams early on plus some of his great pursuits of the ball carriers as he fills in for No. 55.

The bad

Obviously Reed is not in danger of taking a job away from Miller or Chubb - and his success was certainly increased by having more attention to Miller on the other side, but it’s crucial in Fangio’s defense to have great depth among the linebackers, especially those who can create pressure on the quarterback. So it’s important for Reed to continue improving so he can step in on rotation and the defense not skip a beat.

There isn’t much “bad” about Reed’s game, though remaining disciplined in his contain and not allowing running backs to get a step on him would be an area to improve. Also continuing to step up his ability against the most elite players in the league will be an ongoing challenge for the young playmaker.

Final word

Reed had an impressive rookie season that should only improve with a second year under the tutelage of Miller and Chubb plus an extra year in Fangio’s scheme. Although he will be a rotational backer behind Chubb, his rookie year experience will make him a key “dream killer” for this stout defense.

With another rookie linebacker fighting for a spot - Derrek Tuszka - Reed knows he’ll have to approach this season just like he did last year when he was trying to make the team as an undrafted rookie.

“I’m excited coming into this year. As far as the defense, I’m excited too,” Reed said on denverbroncos.com, noting that the additions of Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye are going to be a big boost. “So, I feel like we got playmakers on the front end, playmakers on the back-end and playmakers at linebacker as well. I’m excited to see us fly around this year.”