Malik Reed 6’ 1 1/8” 234 lbs OLB Nevada #90
Malik Reed is an impact player at the OLB position who is (as Mike Mayock might say) is quicker than fast. He ran a 4.8/40 but had a good short shuttle (4.30) which would have been 12th and a very nice 3-cone drill (6.89) which would have tied for 3rd in the linebacker group at the Combine. When he can get off blocks he is a heat seeking missile coming for the QB. He was able to amass 26 tackles for loss and 16 sacks over the last two seasons.
He was a team captain and a vocal leader on defense. Here he is splitting a gap on an inside rush between the guard and center. He times the play fairly well as to not give away the element of surprise.
Somehow the guard missed seeing the player right in front of him blitzing, and the RB (whose first job is to pick up and block any free runners) went out for a dump off pass as his QB was getting bulldozed. This shows the explosive first few steps that Reed has plus the sure tackling skills. He rarely misses a sack, and you can see he first grabs the QB securely by wrapping him up with both arms before he uses his body weight to yank him down. It’s quick with no possibility of escape for Reed’s prey. Reed will miss some open field tackles due to his short arms but if can get both hands on you he is pretty reliable.
Reed has a skillset to be successful in the NFL to a certain degree. He is a dynamic player when he is able to stay off blocks. Once he gets involved with a blocker it is usually over for him. In fact he does better against OT than TE’s because he can use his quickness better against a bigger man. He has a lightning quick first step and good short area quickness. Watch the TE #87 just push him back during this short yardage situation.
It is really surprising because Reed was a Mountain West first team performer in 2017 as a defensive lineman. He moved to OLB in 2018 maybe because he may be better as a free rusher than a down lineman. He had 8 sacks in each of the last two years but had 16 TFL in 2018 compared to 10 TFL in 2017 in 4 less games.
I mentioned a quick first step, and this is what I mean. He goes around the tackle who is in a three point stance like he wasn’t there. The fact that the tackle was not in a two point stance might have been a clue that it was a running play. He also “pops up” at the snap which loses his forward momentum and leverage if he were to engage the OT. It makes you think he could even be quicker with better technique.
He also times the snap really well which aids him in his quest to beat the tackle around the edge. He is able to flatten around the edge even though he is tight in the hips (which also hurts his ability to play in space). He does have great dexterity in the ankles, though, which allows him to drop his shoulder under a tackle’s reach and turn the corner to the QB. Watch him closely when he bends back to chase the RB. He doesn’t flip his hips. Instead he pivots and cuts so sharply with his ankles using his upper body weight to maintain balance.
Reed has numerous faults, but one of them is not fear of contact. I think he enjoys it. He is not a very instinctual player and has played only a single season at LB so reading and reacting to the play is all new to him. This next play is one of the best I saw him make as a run stopper.
He is able to slide over, avoiding the trash and keeping his feet clean. He drops his shoulders to get in better leverage position and drives through the RB even though he was basically standing still. When Reed is able to keep himself off blocks he can be a playmaker.
Reed is a solid tackler when he is able to stay off blocks like in the last play. When Reed hits his man he usually stops and goes backward. A benefit of those forceful tackles are turnovers. Over the last three years Reed has forced 11 fumbles. Here Reed is playing the LOLB position with a running play to his side.
This play shows him flowing to his left and reading where RB is going. He keeps himself clean again working from the outside back in. He stays outside to guard the edge making the RB cut back into the teeth of the defense. Reed works back right (after flowing left) to make the tackle on the cutback. Remember that Reed is a novice at the LB position but still put up respectable numbers considering all his flaws. Reed had 55 solo tackles 15 1⁄2 TFL and 8 sacks in 2018 which compares favorably to Devin White (#5 pick in the 2019 Draft) who had 62 solo tackles, 12 TFL and 3 sacks. Consider that White played in the same position on almost every play. Reed is all over the formation, on either side and lined up to rush the QB on a third of of his snaps.
That was a good play. Here is a not so good play. This is 3rd and 1. Hawaii is in a 4 WR set with a single RB. Reed is the LDE on the play. At the snap Reed is way too high, and he does not sink his hips to anchor against the drive block. He gets pushed back almost 5 yards and gives up the first down.
The entire play Reed is using poor technique, but he hangs tough and is not taken to the ground. On this play he either needs to drop his pad level or step inside the OT to cause penetration. Reed does neither. Like I said, he was a first team All-Mountain West defensive lineman. He should understand leverage and counter moves.
The next play again shows some good and bad qualities. Once again he is quick off the snap and forces the tackle to retreat immediately. He also stands up again instead of keeping good forward lean. He basically runs through the attempt by the tackle to grab him, and he forces the QB to go into escape mode which leads to an errant throw.
Watch the replay and pay close attention as he attempts to get by the hold of the tackle. He has virtually no hand usage at all. There is no chop or rip or slap which would make his arc tighter and his distance to the QB shorter. Being a former defensive lineman, it is shocking to see such crude hand usage. He is a raw player, and some technique refinement could help him immensely in getting to the QB and getting off blocks.
On this next play Reed is blitzing from the second level and again times up the snap to almost get a running start to the play. He is going against Ryan Pope who is a 6’ 7” tackle with long arms. Reed has short arms which is a big reason he will get caught up in blocks ,but here he is able to run through another block by dipping his shoulder to gain the edge.
You can see the lack of hand usage. He essentially uses quickness, determination and unfettered desire to make this sack. Pope is not an NFL tackle (in fact he went undrafted), but he should be able to stop Reed on this play. Reed is a UDFA so I don’t know how much time if any that Joe Vitt will spend with him. If he could teach Reed just a few moves and hand usage, Reed could develop into a quality situational pass rusher.
On this play the fake inside blitz captivates the RG into zero action leaving Reed all alone with the OT. Reed is the first one off at the snap and erases the cushion the LT has over him quickly. The tackle sets too shallow and allows Reed to get to his edge before he can react.
Reed does a good job of using the half man technique, attacking the left side of the tackle and even threw in a slap to help him get by. This play illustrates the explosiveness Reed has and also the subtle shoulder lean right under the arm of the LT. You can also see the flexibility in the ankles. He changes direction so quickly without losing any speed.
Reed is also a high motor player who is relentless when chasing the play. He is also smart ( Academic All-Conference 1st team selection) and realizes he went around #64 a bit too easily so he doubles back when he sees the ball thrown to the flat.
You can see the effort and urgency in his play. He is out of control at times, but his hustle here results in a 2 yard loss. Every play like this is a learning experience for Reed, and the more chances he gets the better he will become as long as he uses proper techniques.
This play is a chance to learn. He had great plans on the play, but the poor technique got him in trouble. Reed is the LOLB on the play, and at the snap he reads wide zone run so he wants to get outside to contain the edge. This is good.
The problem is he is in a hurry and attacks too quickly outside. He gets caught up in a block by his nemesis #64. Instead of stringing the play out he leaves a gaping hole when the other LB hesitates by following the play fake. Reed should have worked back into the hole like he did before but instead was abused on the play.
These two angles show the problems Reed was having a little better. First he attacks too quickly and gives up a lane. Second he is playing way too tall and needs better leverage against a offensive lineman.
Reed has three things going against him on this and any play like it.
1) He has short arms and can’t match the length of most offensive linemen.
2) He has very few hand fighting techniques. His hands should look like a sushi chef cutting and chopping.
3) He weighs only 235 lbs and cannot grapple with the big boys because he will lose more times than not.
He gets abused here but will get some revenge soon.
Revenge time has come, and Reed uses a defensive lineman move I like to call the “pole” technique. The basic premise is that one arm is longer than two. When you reach with one arm you get much more extension, and it helps mitigate a lack of length.
The idea here is to come off the ball fast and extend your arm so that you get under the shoulder pad of the shoulder closest to the QB. If done correctly it will lift the tackle, slightly making him unbalanced. You then shed him quickly and latch onto the QB. It helps that it was 3rd and 12, and Reed was pinning his ears back in full pass rush mode.
Reed has some impressive skills, and his coaches rave about him as a leader with a positive voice in the locker room. He needs a total technique overhaul. That will take time, but it could produce a quality situational pass rusher that the Jets could use desperately.
To be honest when I read is size, weight and speed numbers I couldn’t see how he could make an NFL roster. After watching a lot of tape I think he has a shot. If he develops you could have Polite on one side and Reed on the other with lightning quick first steps.
Reed will need to make an impact early in camp to warrant a coach spending time with him to work on his technique. If he can impress he will stay around at least on the practice squad. His future will be determined on how hard he works and how fast he can develop.
The kid has a chance.
What do you think?