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NFL Draft

Will Broncos’ Bradley Chubb Bounce Back This Season?

  • The Draft Network
  • July 1, 2020
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Going into the 2018 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos had a handful of offensive needs. They recently signed quarterback Case Keenum, who was coming off his career year in Minnesota, but a better, franchise-type option certainly could have been in the cards for them. At receiver, they still had the duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but we all know that didn’t last long—they knew it likely wouldn’t at that time, too. Finally, there were some holes along the offensive line they could have addressed.

Instead, with the No. 5 overall pick, they went defense and selected Bradley Chubb, the talented all-around pass-rusher from N.C. State. 

It was sort of one of those draft scenarios that happened to fall the way it did on draft night. If Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold were still on the board at the Broncos’ pick, perhaps they would have been the choice. If the wide receiver class was stronger at the top, maybe a trade down and a selection at that position was possible. That’s just not how it worked out.

Talent-wise, I don’t think anyone was arguing where Chubb was selected. Chubb was coming off back-to-back seasons in which he recorded both double-digit sacks and more than 20 tackles for loss. Even with a still stellar Von Miller rushing from one side, the thought of Chubb on the other was too much to pass up.

Chubb certainly put any doubt of another pick the Broncos could have made to bed when he broke Denver’s rookie sack record in 2018 with 12. In fact, he and Miller combined for 26.5 sacks in 2018, the most since Miller and Elvis Dumervil recorded 29.5 in 2012.

2019 didn’t get off to the same fiery start for the duo or for Chubb specifically. With long-time defensive coach Vic Fangio now the team’s head coach, the Broncos defense struggled during the early weeks of the season picking up the new scheme. Denver, as a whole, did not record a single sack until Week 4. Coincidentally, that was also the last game Chubb played in the 2019 campaign, as he partially tore his ACL in his left knee.

Fast forward to the present day and according to Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, everything is going as good as it can with Chubb’s rehab and recovery.

“We’ve seen him running on tape, and he’s full speed and ready to go,” Donatell said. “You’ll see a really good year from him.”

Last year was Chubb’s first year in Donatell/Fangio’s system. As stated before, Chubb didn’t have much success right off the bat, but sometimes these things do take time. When you’re successful in a certain system, and you’re asked to do different things in a new one, there’s always an adjustment period. 

Despite the slow start, Donatell isn’t worried about Chubb’s fit in his scheme at all. In fact, he’s quite excited to get Chubb back out there.

“He fit in very well,” Donatell said. “He’s just good in all areas. He’s such a solid, consistent person in all areas of his life. He’s just got a lot of skill and ability. But this is a Bronco that’s going to be a great Bronco for a long time; we just didn’t get to see enough of it last year because of the injury.”

That excitement one year later still mirrors what Fangio himself said of Chubb before the 2019 season began.

“He’s tailor-made for us,” Fangio said. “I think he’ll take the next step just because he’s a pro much like Phillip already. He’s a very smart football player, very coachable, very intense. I see nothing but bright days ahead for him.”

For Chubb, it all really starts with stopping the run.

Chubb gained the trust of his coaches last year for how solid he was as a run-stopper. That’s what makes the pairing of Chubb and Miller so good, both of them can be on the field at all times with or without the other. They are not packaged or situation-dependent.

Miller also isn’t a one-trick pony when it comes to getting past offensive tackles. He said he’s been watching some Khalil Mack film to see how Fangio used Mack in 2018, and you can see some power tendencies from him similar to that of Mack.

“Obviously when you see what he’s done with guys in the past, how he moved guys like Khalil Mack last year and stuff like that, it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to,” Chubb said. “I feel like for myself that I am a versatile player. I’m excited to see all the things we can do to help out this team.”

After Chubb attacks the outside of his blockers a few times with power like Mack does, Chubb can hit that inside move very nicely.

There’s a chance you could have watched the clip against Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson and thought “yeah, but it’s Cam Robinson.”

Well, how about the one directly above against Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari?

Bakhtiari is one of the best tackles in the game, and this wasn’t the only time Chubb bested him on the edge. That was in Week 3 of the 2019 season and really looked like a turning point from Chubb’s “slow” start to the season.

I’m not too worried about Chubb despite 2019’s slow start and the partial ACL tear. I really do think that, even from what we saw in just 2019, both he and Miller are due for a bounce-back year as one of the best edge tandems in the NFL.

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