Malik Reed spent his formative football years watching Von Miller wreak havoc on opposing offenses, admiring from afar his then-future, now-current Denver Broncos teammate.
“It’s funny because the guy on my team is one of the guys I watched the most coming up,” Reed told reporters following Sunday’s training camp practice, per The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala. “I watched Von a lot. … Being in the league for nine years, going against so many great tackles, great teams. It’s a blessing to be able to learn from him each and every day.
“Having Von here and being able to talk to him every time I come off the field — ‘OK, this is what I’m seeing. How do I adjust off each look I get?’ — it’s been great so far.”
Now he’s stationed as Miller’s direct backup, a role he may not soon relinquish.
The Broncos on Sunday waived sophomore outside linebacker Jeff Holland, paving the way on the 53-man regular season roster (when it’s finalized) for Reed, whom the team signed in April as an undrafted free agent.
Because Denver added a cornerback in a corresponding move for Holland’s release, and given the scarcity of developmental OLBs currently in tow, Reed is set to become the latest “eighth-round” gem unearthed by general manager John Elway and head coach Vic Fangio.
“I like the way Malik has played. We like him a lot,” Fangio said.
The Nevada product was billed as a possible mid-round choice after totaling 203 tackles (134 solo), 38.5 tackles for loss, 22 sacks and 11 forced fumbles across 42 career games from 2015-18. He was a first-team All-Mountain West selection in 2017 and 2016.
Reed’s tweener size (6-1, 237) and perceived inconsistencies as a pass-rusher ultimately sunk his draft status — much to Denver’s delight. They scooped him as a UDFA and immediately stuck him behind Miller, Bradley Chubb and Holland as the No. 4 OLB.
It took exactly one preseason contest for Reed to leapfrog Holland; he posted four tackles (two solo), a tackle for loss, sack and quarterback hit in the Broncos’ victory over the Falcons in the Hall of Fame Game. The effort came as little surprise to those who had been paying attention.
“Oh, not at all. I see Malik out here every day,” Chubb said. “Me and [OLB] Von [Miller] both knew that he was going to be a ‘dog’ out there. We were excited for it. Malik rides home with me every day after practice. I’m just in his ear [saying], ‘This is what they expect. This is what they want.’ I’m glad to see him doing his thing. I feel like those words sunk in a little bit. So, it’s been fun watching him grow as well.”
Holland recorded just one tackle against Atlanta and was glaringly deficient in run support. This continued during Thursday’s loss to the Seahawks in which Holland notched a pair of stops.
Reed? Another day at the office with similarly successful production: Four tackles (three solo), a tackle for loss, sack and QB hit. He earned the promotion, and the Broncos wasted no time making it official.
More LB Moves
The Broncos played a game of Musical Linebackers, bumping Holland and converting safety Jamal Carter to inside linebacker. It was done partly out of necessity, as starting ILBs Todd Davis (calf) and Josey Jewell (oblique) remain sidelined, and top reserve Joe Jones (triceps) is out 6-8 weeks.
Carter, who missed the entire 2018 campaign with a hamstring injury, reportedly requested the position change because, he feels, it will help his roster odds. Fangio termed the switch temporary but conceded it could become permanent if Carter adapts well.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter @KelbermanNFL