Last year, linebacker Malik Reed went from an undrafted nobody to the breakout rookie of training camp. And, by Week 5, he was thrust into a starting job because of Bradley Chubb’s season-ending knee injury.
Now, Reed is again in a position to play a pivotal role in Denver’s defense, with coach Vic Fangio saying Reed “picked up where he left off from last year.”
“He’s a second-year guy who got a lot of playing time last year, and he picked it up from there,” Fangio said. “He’s a guy that’s in the mix. We’ve got him and Jerry (Attaochu) behind Von (Miller) and Bradley. We’ll play them all as needed.”
With the Broncos being cautious with Chubb in his return from a left ACL injury — “He may not be able to take the full load right off the bat,” Fangio said — there will likely be an opportunity early in the season for Reed to prove last season’s growth and consistency were no fluke.
After leading the Broncos with four preseason sacks to help cement his roster spot, Reed had two sacks, three knockdowns and four pressures for nine total disruptions across 475 defensive snaps in 2019. He was limited in the final three games due to injury. The former Nevada star also had 27 tackles, 16 solo and four for loss.
“It was a learning experience every week, just being able to see different guys, on different teams, and see how they attack our defense and how I responded (on film),” Reed said. “I definitely took a lot from each and every week.”
Listed at 235 pounds on the 2020 roster, the 6-foot-2 Reed said he lost weight in the offseason to make him more fleet.
“When I got here last year, I put on about five to six pounds, but it wasn’t the weight that I wanted, and I didn’t put it on the right way,” Reed said. “So this offseason I got with a nutritionist and worked up a plan to get to a good weight, and trim it up, so I can move a bit better. I feel good with where I’m at now.”
Alongside Attaochu (who displayed his pass-rushing capabilities with 3.5 sacks in five starts last year), Reed said he’ll be “ready when my number’s called” as he continues to grow into Fangio’s system.
“He’s showing the value of what he learned last year,” Fangio said. “He’s made nice progress here (during the preseason). We just need to keep improving him on the fine points.”
And for the player who earned the nickname of “The Dream Killer” from Miller last year — for the way Reed wrecks quarterbacks’ dreams — the hunger to keep getting better shouldn’t be an issue. Reed, a man of strong faith, is a walking case study in humility and focus.
“From the preseason (last year), going into the year and then making the team and everything, I count that as a blessing,” Reed said. “And to still be in this position, I count that as a blessing as well… I continue to take what I’ve learned, and take the path that I’ve been on, and continue to drive and push forward. I never get complacent.”