Denver Broncos: Malik Reed could be crucial early in 2021 season

Denver Broncos OLB Malik Reed. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos OLB Malik Reed. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Denver Broncos backup outside linebacker Malik Reed played 72.15 percent of the team’s snaps during the 2020 season. That was due to Von Miller suffering a season-ending ankle injury which cost him the entire year. Now, there’s a chance that Reed could be forced to play more than expected early in 2021.

Mike Klis of 9News suggests that it would be smart for the team to put Miller and Bradley Chubb on pitch counts to begin the season. Chubb underwent surgery on his ankle two weeks ago and will miss OTAs and mandatory minicamp.

There is no sense in rushing either player back. They should come back when they are either one-hundred percent ready or a lot closer than not, to lessen the chance of re-injury. It would be very good for Reed if this is the case because he would be able to gain a lot more experience on the field in Miller and Chubb’s absences.

During the 2020 season, Reed made the most of his opportunity. He made 53 total tackles, including 34 solo, as well as sacking the quarterback eight times. Even with Miller out for the entire season, it is obvious that Reed still learned plenty from the All-Pro. Even just having Miller around is a huge bonus for Reed and the other pass rushers on the team.

If Fangio does in fact put either Miller or Chubb (or both) on pitch counts to start the 2021 season, there is a chance that we could also see 2020 seventh-round pick Derrek Tuszka, 2021 seventh-round pick Jonathon Cooper and 2021 undrafted free agent Andre Mintze suit up and try to make an impact for the team.

Tuszka transitioned from playing on the defensive line at North Dakota State to outside linebacker for the Broncos but was considered too small at the position. Hopefully, he has bulked up enough and will continue to get better with fundamentals and the mental aspect of the position.

Cooper underwent a ‘minimally-invasive’ heart procedure recently due to a heart condition that has been known about for a while—including when the Broncos selected him on May 1st.

It will be fascinating to see how far he will go with the team and if he makes the team, what type of impact he will have.

Either way, if the Denver Broncos do put Miller and/or Chubb on pitch counts, it will be good for Reed and other inexperienced players.