Grasping at Malik Reed's Ceiling With Broncos as an Edge Rusher

Malik Reed has come on strong in recent weeks. With four sacks in two games, have the Broncos found a long-term counterpart for Bradley Chubb?
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Over the years, there have been some good finds by the Denver Broncos when it comes to undrafted free-agent edge rushers. Shaquil Barrett had a good tenure in Denver as a backup edge rusher, but departed in 2019 in search of more money and a starting role, neither of which Denver could offer. 

That led to the Broncos having to find a new gem and the team landed on Malik Reed. The second-year edge rusher has four sacks over the last two games with three additional pressures. While I was hyped about his addition, having discovered Reed as a Nevada prospect back in November 2018 as I scouted the 2019 NFL draft class, I've got to say, the brakes need to be pumped somewhat in the wake of his recent production. 

Reed's four sacks are great, but it's important to keep in mind that not all sacks are created equal, especially for edge rushers. There are sacks that an edge rusher makes by winning his rep one-on-one, there are sacks of a guy just doing his job and getting lucky, and then there are coverage sacks. The quality of the sack depends entirely on the circumstances and all four of Reed's sacks have been in the latter two categories.

Against the Kansas City Chiefs, Reed's two sacks were him doing his job. One came completely unblocked, which gave him a clean shot at Patrick Mahomes, while the other came against a tight end, which isn't a high-quality blocker. Lining a tight end up against Reed shows what the Chiefs thought of him after his two-sack game against New England. If Kansas City feared him, it wouldn't have let him go unblocked by play-design nor would he have been matched up on a tight end.

Those are still solid quality sacks, though not as high as if he had made a great individual play. His Kansas City sacks were better quality than the two coverage sacks he got against New England with Cam Newton, certainly. 

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In Week 6, the Broncos totaled four sacks with the average time to sack being 3.25 seconds. That is well about the 3-second threshold you're looking for. Just narrowing it down to Reed's sacks, he posted a 3.68 seconds average time to sack thanks to Newton holding onto the ball.

This isn't meant to diminish Reed. He is out there doing his job and part of doing so is capitalizing on the lapses of opponents and taking what offense gives him. Watching his tape, he never stops fighting against the run or the pass. The motor is there and his teammate Bradley Chubb sees his potential as being "through the roof."

"He comes to work every day," Chubb said on Tuesday. "I texted him after the game and told him, ‘You’re a true pro. You do everything right. You do everything coaches ask you to do and you don’t say anything that you don’t do.’ Malik’s one of those guys that I look up to. He’s in the same room as me writing everything down and I look over there and it makes me want to get on my game a little bit more."

The issue is, Reed is playing more than he should. He has what it takes to be a backup edge rusher, but he really isn't starter quality. His play has led some fans to surmise he can be the long-term Von Miller replacement. 

Suffice to say, that really isn't Reed. But it's good to see him pick up a little momentum especially with starter Jeremiah Attaochu still nursing a nagging quad injury. 

"Having him come on like this is special because you saw it brewing throughout last season and for it to come to fruition now is amazing," Chubb said of Reed. 

If Denver does move on from Miller after this season, or after 2021 when his contract expires, the truth is, the team would still need to find a quality edge rusher to pair opposite Bradley Chubb and use Reed in what he is best suited for; as a situational pass rusher. 

Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel and @MileHighHuddle