Denver Broncos believe Shane Ray will hit ground running after return
The Denver Broncos can start the clock on returning one of their better defensive players returning to the field soon, and they feel he’s in great shape to contribute immediately upon his return.
Shane Ray was placed on injured reserve just prior to the start of the season following a wrist injury he suffered early in training camp. But following Sunday night’s game against the New York Giants, the Broncos will be able to bring Ray back into the fold for two weeks of practice before he’s eligible to play.
From what we hear, Ray is all systems go. In fact, one team source said he’s “itching” to get back to practice starting Monday. Ray then can practice and be eligible to play in Week 8 — which just so happens to be a potentially massive game at the Kansas City Chiefs — close to where he grew up.
Ray had pins placed in his wrist during surgery to repair the injury, but those pins have since been removed and he has had no apparent setbacks. Speaking to the Denver Post, Ray said he’d have to work with a cast on his hand — at least initially — but believes he’s still in the terrific shape he reported to camp in.
This could be a huge addition for the Broncos, who have Von MIller and Shaq Barrett manning the two OLB spots admirably to this point. But they’ve played the majority of the snaps and could use a third rusher such as Ray to spell them and provide another source of heat off the edge. Miller has four of the team’s 10 sacks this season and Barrett has one.
In addition to the big game against the currently unbeaten Chiefs, the four games that follow — at Philadelphia Eagles, vs. New England Patriots, vs. Cincinnati Bengals and at Oakland Raiders — all could loom as considerable matchups.
Ray was a first-round pick in 2015, and he gradually has increased his role on defense. By the end of his rookie season, he was a notable contributor who played about half the defensive snaps each game for the eventual Super Bowl champs that year.
Last season, Ray played 58 percent of the Broncos’ defensive snaps, although that number did drop off a bit toward the end of the season prior to playing 41 of the team’s 54 snaps in Week 17 against the Oakland Raiders after the Broncos had been eliminated from the playoffs.
Still, there’s hope that he can work his way back into being the team’s third rusher on a defense that has made notable improvements this season compared to 2016 and could be even stronger with Ray’s reinsertion into the lineup.