ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — If Bradley Chubb's offseason is any indication, the 2020 Pro Bowler may soon return to his previous heights.
Ahead of training camp, both General Manager George Paton and Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett spoke highly of the 2018 fifth-overall pick and said his current play reminds them of his previous success.
"I've only been here a year and a half, but he's had an incredible offseason," Paton said Tuesday. "We've talked about it before. It's the first offseason he hasn't had to rehab and hasn't had a surgery. We're seeing the Bradley that I thought we were going to get when I got here. He's playing with reckless abandon. He's looked as good as the year when he had 12 sacks, as far as I'm concerned. We'll see what happens when we get the pads on. We're excited about Bradley Chubb. We want him here a long time."
Hackett coached in Green Bay in 2019 when the Packers faced a healthy Chubb on the heels of his franchise rookie record-setting 12-sack season, and he doesn't see a difference in play.
"It's funny looking back to when we played Denver in 2019 and he was rolling," Hackett said. "Since I've been here — I don't know what's happened [in the years since] — but it's not fun to try and block him."
Hackett said Chubb's play has made it difficult on the offense, but he noted that the outside linebacker is "making us better."
Chubb underwent an offseason ankle injury in 2021 and another one early in the season as he finished without a sack in seven games last year. Those surgeries came on the heels of tearing his ACL early in the 2019 season.
When healthy, Chubb posted his 12-sack season in 2018 and earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2020 on the shoulders of 7.5 sacks and 19 quarterback hits.
Chubb enters the 2022 season on the final year of his rookie contract, but Paton said the team would keep those conversations "in-house." Paton spoke this spring about how he hopes that Chubb remains with the Broncos for years to come.
For now, the focus remains on Chubb's play, which could become even more important as Randy Gregory starts training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
"He's been really hard to block," Paton said.
If Gregory misses time during training camp, second-round rookie Nik Bonitto could be a beneficiary and receive extra snaps.
The 64th-overall pick earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2021 and posted 15 combined sacks over his final two seasons, and he could be an early impact player for Denver.
"Bonitto really finished strong," Paton said. "He was hard to block towards the end of the offseason program. We talked about how he has incredible get off and incredible bend. He has a great pass-rush arsenal. He's slippery and he played the run well."
Third-round tight end Greg Dulcich also impressed during the offseason and could push presumptive starter Albert Okwuegbunam for reps and targets.
"Dulcich, obviously, had a little hamstring setback, but he showed in the short-term what he can do and what he can add," Paton said. "He's got tremendous speed, ball skills, great worker and highly intelligent."
Both players could be critical to the Broncos' hopes in 2022.
"We're excited for both of them," Paton said. "Where they contribute, we'll see. We have a camp to see how it goes, but [I'm] really fired up for both of those players."
'THEY'RE ALL ABOUT WINNING'
In Paton's first public comments since the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group entered into a purchase and sale agreement to acquire the team, Paton said he knows winning will remain a top priority.
"Not just myself and Coach Hackett, but the entire organization is really excited for the ownership group," Paton said. "It's a dynamic ownership group. [They're] accomplished — incredibly accomplished, intelligent, and thoughtful leadership. They're going to help with the culture here, and we just can't wait to get them here. I've had a few conversations with them, and one thing I know is they're all about winning. They want to win the right way. They're going to set a winning culture, and they will set the tone. They will add to what we've already started. We're fired up to get them here and get them approved. I've really enjoyed the brief conversations up to this point."
Paton also said he expects a "very collaborative" environment with the new ownership group, and he said he and the ownership group will do a "deep dive on everything we're doing."
'AT THE RIGHT TIME, WE'LL GET A DEAL DONE'
Asked about potential contract negotiations with Russell Wilson and his representation, Paton said he would keep any conversations private.
"We all want Russell here a long time," Paton said. "I appreciate the question. Out of respect for his team and our team, we're going to keep it in house — any discussions we may or may not have. I have a really good relationship with Russ' agent, Mark Rodgers, and at the right time, we'll get a deal done."
Since arriving in Denver, Wilson has said he hopes to remain in Denver for the rest of his career.
Wilson is currently under contract through the 2023 season.