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Denver Broncos LB Shane Ray up for the task

June 14, 2017 Updated: June 14, 2017 at 5:56 pm
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photo - Denver Broncos rookie outside linebacker Shane Ray talks to reporters after an organized training activity at the NFL football team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo., Monday, June 1, 2015. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Denver Broncos rookie outside linebacker Shane Ray talks to reporters after an organized training activity at the NFL football team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo., Monday, June 1, 2015. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

Shane Ray does not feel the cleats he has to replace are too big for him.

He knows, without a doubt, his time has come. After two years of being a backup and spot starter, Ray is ready to show why the Denver Broncos traded up in the first round of the 2015 draft to take him No. 23 overall.

Through his first two seasons in Denver, Ray has been the protege of possible Hall of Famer, DeMarcus Ware. But now, the man who recorded 21.5 sacks in his three years at Mile High has retired. And the Broncos are looking toward Ray to fill the void.

"(DeMarcus) taught me how to be a pro," Ray said.

That was not the only thing Ware taught Ray. The teacher also gave the former student insight on pass rushing techniques. What to look for in certain situations and things to understand about the game were shared by Ware.

However, the biggest stuff Ware shared was how to deal with off-field happenings: how to take care of his body to eating habits to approaching offseason workouts.

Last season, the Broncos got a glimpse of what Ray can do when he replaces Ware.

The third year pro started eight games because Ware dealt with a fractured forearm and back issues. Ray seized his opportunities.

Ray had a three-sack performance during Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He also closed out the season with three sacks in the final four games. Ray finished the year second on the team in sacks with eight, right behind his now starting partner in crime, Von Miller who recorded 13.5.

"We are the best passing duo in the league," Ray said of the rush tandem of him and Miller. "It's no question. We just have to show it this year."

And Ray plans on showing it.

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound outside linebacker does not have a set number of sacks he wants to reach this season. But he does have a sack total in mind, in terms of sacks per game.

"I should average a sack per game," Ray said. "I don't know if that is what everyone else should follow or whatever, but that's for me personally. It's not a set number. I don't know how many sacks I am going to have. But as a player, I should come out of the game with a sack."

Ray has averaged a sack before in his career. In his last year at Missouri, Ray tallied 14.5 sacks in 14 games.

"I don't think it is difficult to average a sack per game, especially with Von Miller next to you," Ray said. "I am going to have so many one-on-ones, it's not something that is not fathomable for me. If I can average a sack a day at practice or two sacks per day at practice, what is the difference from a game. Why can't I go out and do the same thing?"

Ray is still approaching this year like he has in the past.

"My mindset is, was, whether I am the starter or not the starter, I am going to try and dominate," Ray said. "Even with now knowing I am going to be the starter, I still have that same mentality because I outwork everybody."

Going into his first season as a starter, Ray doesn't feel the pressure to fill Ware's cleats. He plans to just go out and be himself. And if Ray can do that, he believes the Broncos will be great and quite possibly lift the Lombardi Trophy at season's end.

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