Malik Reed might not have gotten to hear his name called on draft day but he maximized the one blessing that comes from going undrafted. Reed chose the right team to sign with as a college free agent.
The Denver Broncos have a rich history of rushing the passer, replete with finding under-the-radar players who go onto soar. While it's too early to say whether Malik Reed is on that trajectory, the early signs indicate that he is.
Through two preseason games, Reed has tallied two sacks and multiple QB pressures. He's been so good that the Broncos chose to cut bait with Jeff Holland over the weekend.
What has Reed done, exactly, to impress Vic Fangio and the Broncos' coaches?
“Played good," Fangio said on Monday. "He likes to hit people, which is job description number one for an NFL linebacker, and he’s got good instincts and good feel. He doesn’t know everything yet. A lot of it is still new to him. He was a guy that played multiple positions in college, really never had a home there. We’re glad we have him.”
That's arguably the biggest reason Reed went undrafted. Due to the way Nevada used him on defense, NFL scouts couldn't put their finger on whether he was an off-ball linebacker or edge rusher.
“Last year I moved from off the ball to linebacker and I had to learn a whole new system, but I definitely feel like some of the things that I took from that experience is definitely helping now as far as coverage and how to play the game," Reed said following Denver's Monday practice.
The Broncos saw edge all the way when scouting Reed, plugging him in there and putting him under the wing of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The right players will learn at the feet of the star players and work to replicate their mentors.
Reed has clearly been taking good notes with regard to Miller, as he's shown some bend around the edge in-game, as well as an uncanny knack for dipping his shoulder to get to the QB.
“It's been a blessing to have Von, Chubb, Dekoda [Watson], all the older guys in there helping," Reed said on Monday. "Every time I come out to the field, if I have a question about anything or what I'm seeing out there or how to adjust to something, they are right there to help me out.”
Reed is a maximum effort guy, which you have to be, if you want to make an NFL roster as an undrafted rookie. At the final gun of each practice, he can be seen running sprints as he leaves the field. The kid is taking every opportunity to improve.
“It's just getting some conditioning in," Reed explained. "That's something that I've been doing since I've been in college, just trying to get that extra work in wherever I can. I know we have a certain period of time that we have to get off the field, so just try to fit it in wherever I can.”
The expectation is that the Broncos will carry four true outside linebackers, possibly five, depending on how the team ultimately classifies rookie fifth-rounder Justin Hollins. Those first three spots will be taken by Miller, Chubb and Dekoda Watson. That fourth spot is Reed's to lose.
He knows he's got momentum. The key now will be to not lose it.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.