DENVER | Malik Reed decided to sign with Denver after going undrafted out of the University of Nevada so that he could pick up pointers from Broncos star pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
Reed parlayed those tips into a terrific preseason that featured a team-best four sacks, including two in the Broncos’ 20-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals that capped a strong summer by the second-string defense Thursday night.
“Well, anytime an undrafted college free agent comes in and makes your team and plays good, it’s nice to see,” coach Vic Fangio said. “And it is a surprise, no matter what anybody else will tell you. I’m happy for him and I’m happy for us.”
Hearing he’d made the team, Reed said, “That’s amazing. I can’t wait to get started.”
Reed realizes a lot of rookie linebackers might have found it intimidating to join a team that features the league’s best sacks duo, but he said he knew “those could be two guys that I could really learn from, take pieces of their games and add to mine.”
Miller dubbed him “The Dream Killer” earlier this summer because “he’s killing quarterbacks’ dreams every single day.”
Reed said Miller calls him by his new nickname every time they talk.
“I guess it’s caught on now,” Reed said. “So, I guess it’s here to stay.”
Just like Reed on the roster.
Reed dumped Brett Hundley for an 8-yard loss and Drew Anderson for 9 as the Broncos built a 10-0 halftime lead on the strength of Kevin Hogan’s 6-yard TD toss to Fred Brown. That was all the points Denver would need.
Rookie linebacker Justin Hollins also had a big game for Denver, sacking Hundley on Arizona’s third snap and harassing Anderson with an unblocked pressure and a pass deflection on consecutive snaps.
Safety Su’a Cravens, who’s had some shaky moments this summer, forced and recovered a fumble by tight end Caleb Wilson for Denver, which finished 2-3 in a preseason dominated by backups.
Broncos new quarterback Joe Flacco played in just two games, totaling 30 snaps and four drives as he prepares to begin his second chapter in Denver following 11 seasons in Baltimore.
Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall draft pick, played in three preseason games but sat out the finale with most of Arizona’s starters.
Anderson’s 28-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Richardson pulled the Cardinals to 10-7, but the Broncos responded with a four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
Khalfani Muhammad , who had run seven times for minus-1 yard to start out, reeled off runs of 9, 12 and 47 yards, setting up Devontae Jackson’s 2-yard score.
Fangio said he wanted to see separation from Hogan and rookie QB Brett Rypien, but he really didn’t get his wish. Hogan was 12 for 23 for 138 yards, a TD and two interceptions, including a desperation pass at halftime after Fangio called timeout with a second left. And Rypien was 8 of 11 for 86 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
Like the 61-year-old Broncos first-time head coach, Cardinals rookie coach Kliff Kingsbury, 40, now heads into the toughest part of his new gig: cutting his roster to 53 players by Saturday.
“It’ll be a busy weekend,” Kingsbury said. “I’m not sure as far as the numbers go what that will look like. The scouting department had been working long hours getting ready.”
Asked how glad he was to see the preseason end, Kingsbury said, “I’m really looking forward to next Sunday. It’s exciting to see guys that you bring in from all over the country and have their opportunities.”
Broncos K Brandon McManus was 9 for 9 in the preseason, including field goals of 50 and 33 yards Thursday night, before Cameron Malveaux blocked his 54-yard attempt late in the fourth quarter.
Broncos S Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) was injured on the kickoff coverage, and Denver WR Steven Dunbar Jr. (rib) went out in the second half.
Cardinals: open season at home against Detroit on Sept. 8.
Broncos: open season at Oakland on Sept. 9.