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Broncos Shane Ray a first-round thumbs-up so far

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Shane Ray adds to triple threat for Broncos on pass rush

ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold says the trio of Shane Ray, DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller could provide a formidable pass rush.


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A quick observation of first-round pick Shane Ray and how he has played after the second preseason game:

The Broncos had big enough plans for Ray that they traded up five spots -- No. 28 to No. 23 -- to select him on draft day. Their concern initially was that a turf toe injury he suffered in his final game at the University of Missouri wasn't properly healed.

Ray did not participate at the scouting combine in February and was still limited in his pro day workout. As a result, once he arrived in Colorado, the Broncos were quick to back him off the offseason program, as he took part on only a limited basis. Their hope was he would then be full speed for training camp, and that's been the case.

The Broncos have used him at outside linebacker in their 3-4 and have certainly liked the athleticism they have seen thus far, so much so that they plan to insert Ray into their pass-rushing plans in the regular season. And while they haven’t shown much of it in the preseason, Ray will eventually appear in some formations along with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips likes what he has seen from Ray as he makes the transition from being primarily a college pass-rusher to an outside linebacker who joins the rush, sets the edge in the run game and drops into coverage, Phillips has talked about Ray having to “take what we learn in the classroom, which he’s done a good job at, and putting it to use on the field. But he’s going to be good.’’

Ray’s work so far shows he’s making progress. He played 26 snaps in the preseason opener in Seattle (38 percent of the defensive snaps) and finished with a tackle and a forced fumble. On Saturday night against the Texans, he played 28 snaps (38 percent) and had four tackles to go with a half sack and one pass defensed.

He did briefly limp off the field with a right leg injury against the Texans but returned to the game.