Jeff Holland joined teammates within the southwest tunnel at Broncos Stadium final Saturday evening, and eventually, the wait was virtually over.
A coaches’ choice to make linebacker Shane Ray, a 2015 first-round NFL draft decide, inactive versus the Browns led to Holland, an undrafted rookie, attending to play the sting dashing rotation for the primary time this season. Holland didn’t make the 53-man roster minimize in September. He was signed to the apply squad and Denver promoted him to the energetic roster in late November. Then Holland ran onto the sphere in Week 15 at Broncos Stadium for his Mile Excessive debut.
“I’m the kind of man the place I don’t have jitters,” Holland mentioned. “I’m a soccer participant. I used to be prepared for the second.”
Recreation one eased Holland (6-2, 249) into NFL waters. He performed 21 snaps, 31 % of the protection’s whole, with two tackles and one quarterback strain referred to as again by a Denver penalty.
“(Holland) performed properly,” coach Vance Joseph mentioned. “He confirmed some pure cross rush, he performed laborious, he wasn’t overwhelmed by the second, he was relaxed and he performed bodily. You may see this child goes to have an opportunity to be a superb participant sooner or later.”
The Broncos’ roster already features a pair of undrafted rookies in outstanding roles with working again Phillip Lindsay chosen to the Professional Bowl and punter Colby Wadman pinning opponents 18 occasions inside their very own 20-yard line. Holland’s path to the NFL highlight, although, appeared extra possible.
Holland starred throughout his junior season at Auburn with 45 tackles, 10 sacks, 4 pressured fumbles and SEC Defensive Participant of the Yr honors. He then declared for the draft, with NFL.com projecting he can be a fourth-to-fifth spherical choice. Seven rounds got here and went. No workforce selected him.
Holland’s draft snub possible pointed again to a underwhelming mix efficiency. His 4.79-second, 40-yard sprint ranked because the 13th finest time amongst 19 edge rushers who have been timed. Holland’s broad bounce, 9-feet-8-inches, got here in at No. 14. And, Holland’s 31.5-inch vertical leap at Auburn’s Professional Day would have tied him for No. 13 on the mix.
“These numbers on the mix don’t equate to enjoying soccer on a regular basis,” defensive coordinator Joe Woods mentioned. “You may see he has a pure capability to hurry the passer. All of the stuff by way of enjoying the run and being a first-and-second down participant, that’s one thing we’ll see the extra he performs.”
Holland waited behind star Auburn outdoors linebacker Carl Lawson earlier than getting one season to begin. His NFL studying curve is proving comparable.
“I believe I bend the sting fairly properly and I’ve acquired a knack for (attending to) the quarterback,” Holland mentioned. “I really feel like my entire recreation has taken a giant step normally. I’m feeling cross and run, issues like that, and I believe my recreation has gone to a complete different stage right here with the fellows.”
Linebacker Von Miller ranks amongst Holland’s greatest believers. The pair skilled collectively in the summertime, and when Holland went undrafted, he shot a textual content message to Miller in regards to the potential of reuniting in Denver. Miller responded: “Hey, you come to the Broncos, we’ll be able to go.” Though becoming a member of forces with an already stacked edge dashing unit required Holland earn his alternative.
“I informed him, ‘Hey, simply maintain pushing. You’re going to get your shot.’ It occurs for everyone,” Miller mentioned. “In fact, you need Shane (Ray) to play, however for Jeff to get his profession began is an unbelievable factor, too. It’s a tricky enterprise.”
Holland is embracing the chance.
“With or with out the draft (snub), I’m at all times a man that performs with a chip on his shoulder,” Holland mentioned. “I really like the sport of soccer. That’s simply me.”