Leading up to free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft, much of the talk and focus from pundits was on the Denver Broncos quarterback situation. Despite all of the questions surrounding that position, Broncos’ GM George Paton put a premium on restoring the defense to dominance - at least on paper.
He added cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller, while also picking up Von Miller’s option. He decided to decline Kareem Jackson’s option, but the safety ended up resigning with Denver anyway. Then in the draft, Denver used their first round pick on cornerback Patrick Surtain. To sum things up, Paton’s goal has clearly been centered around improving the team’s defensive unit.
Now through the first beginnings of the offseason, players are beginning to see what this defense is going to look like. Edge rusher Malik Reed was asked about what he thought about this defense’s ceiling in 2021 and his expectations are pretty good.
“It’s exciting because I feel like the ceiling is very high,” Reed said. “The last two years—learning the defense the first year, we did some good things. Then the second year, [we were] playing very well. We just added people to the defense. It’s going to continue to elevate. We continue to push each other, too. I feel like that’s half the battle. The comradery you have between each other and the more you want to see each other succeed, will raises the level of play, whether it’s on the front seven or whether it’s on the back end. Just the genuine joy of the game. You can feel that every time you touch the field during OTAs. You can feel it during practice. The bond that you build between the defense will take us far. I won’t put a ceiling on us because there’s no limit to what we can accomplish as a defense in this league.”
Not to say we don’t hear this type of stuff every offseason, but when these comments align with what everyone anywhere agrees is a stacked unit talent-wise on paper then it matters a little more in my opinion.
Malik Reed is a guy who knows he’ll see limited action behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, but he also likely noticed he has an opportunity to follow in the career arc of a guy like Shaquil Barrett. When asked if he’d like to follow in Barrett’s footsteps, the answer was no doubt.
“No doubt,” Reed said. “Shaq was a guy that knew what he could do every time he stepped on the field. When he got his opportunities, he showed what he could do. Even what he did on the field, I felt like he was still doubted in ways. He had to go out there and consistently show what he can do every time he touched the field. He has turned into one of the best pass rushers in the league to be honest. He knew that on the inside, and he knew who he was. That’s important—the belief in yourself, the belief in your abilities and what you can do takes you beyond what anybody else can ever say what you can or can’t be. I look up to a guy like that and the path he’s taken to where he’s gotten. It’s something I want to strive toward. You want to strive toward people that have had his success through trials, through tribulations and tough situations. Those are the guys that have something else beyond football. I feel like character—character will take you way farther than talent will. That’s something he really honed in on and made a part of who he is. That’s something I want to strive towards as well.”
The defensive rotation looks deep now at edge and in the secondary. If guys can stay healthy, the sky is literally the limit. For Malik Reed, he has lofty goals set for himself as well. Despite knowing he’ll see limited action, he fully intends to make the most of those opportunities with some big sack numbers.
“It’s really going for it all,” Reed said of his goals in 2021. “No limits. Never put a limit. There’s no limit to what God can do, so I never put a limit on what he can do through me. My goal is to consistently get better, and 10 sacks would be a step up. I’m not putting a cap there, so keep going. Ten is a great goal. I’m pushing to get there, but I’m not going to put a cap on it either. I’m going for it all this year.”
If he hits 10 sacks this season and both Miller and Chubb remain healthy all season, then this defense is going to flirt with that 2015 unit in terms of how good they are. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do against these AFC West offenses.