*Do you think Von Miller and Bradley Chubb will combine for more than 30 sacks next season? *
-- James Schroeder
Since my predictions are typically terrible, I consulted my magic 8-ball to answer your question. It said, "Cannot predict now."
The 8-ball seems aware of the fact that there could be changes coming around the defense that ought to make it more effective, but could result in pass-rush opportunities being spread around.
It also may be cognizant of the fear of a "sophomore slump" for Bradley Chubb, since the 10 previous players to have at least 12 sacks in their rookie campaigns saw their sack total drop by an average of 2.95 sacks in their second season. Just two of those 10 players increased their sack total.
One was Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White, who played in 13 games in his 1985 rookie season after arriving from the USFL's Memphis Showboats. He played all 16 games a year later and his total rose from 13 to 18. The other was former 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who built off his 14-sack rookie season in 2011 with a 19.5-sack performance in his second year before off-field troubles waylaid his career.
Smith's defensive coordinator was current Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio, so this offers hope that he and his coaches can tap into Chubb's capability and turn a potential sophomore slump into a second-year surge.
But where the magic 8-ball fails, I lean on data and trends that demonstrate the rarity of the 30-sack milestone for two teammates. Since the league began keeping official sack totals in 1982, just six teams have featured 30-sack duos, with the most recent being the 2011 Vikings who had Jared Allen (22 sacks) and Brian Robison (8 sacks) combine for 30. Two-thirds of those six 30-sack parings came between 1983 and 1992, when most passing games were less predicated on short-to-intermediate routes.
No team has featured a pair that posted "more than" 30 sacks -- to take it back to the precise wording of your question -- since the 2000 Dolphins, who got 31 sacks from Trace Armstrong (16.5) and Jason Taylor (14.5).
Given the rapid evolution of passing games and the resulting decline in sack rate, Miller and Chubb could be phenomenal in 2019 and not get to the 30-sack collective milestone. But if the duo wants to make an unforgettable imprint on this era of football, combining for 30 sacks would do it.
I am so happy that Pat Bowlen and Champ Bailey made it to the HoF but, is the "East Coast bias" real? Randy Gradishar, Karl Mecklenburg, Steve Atwater and John Lynch are long overdue and Tom Nalen hardly got any buzz for induction. While I agree that Kevin Mawae was the best center of his era, you could make the argument that Nalen was firmly established as his closest challenger for that distinction.
-- Jose Borrero
I find the East Coast bias notion a bit overblown, especially considering that midwest outposts like Kansas City are overrepresented in the Hall relative to team accomplishments.
Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that Gradishar is not in, considering that his seven Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro selections and three second-team All-Pro nods in just 10 seasons compare well with those of Giants linebacker Harry Carson, who played three more seasons and went to nine Pro Bowls while also being a first-team All-Pro twice and second-teamer four times.
So Gradishar went to the Pro Bowl in 70 percent of his seasons, while Carson made it in 69 percent. Gradishar also earned a first- or second-team All-Pro selection in 50 percent of his seasons; Carson did so 46 percent of the time.
I expect with Atwater and Lynch, induction is a matter of "when" and not "if." Both have made it to the cutdown to 10 finalists, including Atwater last week. Atwater appears to have more momentum in the selection room, but as he likes to say, "We'll see."
That said, in the Kevin Mawae-vs.-Tom Nalen discussion, it's hard to get much traction for Nalen. At a position without much in the way of quantifiable statistics, honors are leaned upon heavily, and Mawae's eight Pro Bowl selections and seven first-team All-Pro nods surpass Nalen's five and three, respectively.
The only modern-era finalist in this year's class who did not earn at least seven Pro Bowl bids and five first-team All-Pro selections is Tony Boselli, and his accomplishments (five Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro selections) in seven seasons match Nalen's in 14.
Not a question, just a comment. I've read a lot about Champ's pass coverage, and he was indeed a true shutdown corner. But I haven't read anything about his tackling. His open field tackling was textbook. DB coaches should put together a video of his tackles for teaching purposes.
In this aspect he was much superior to certain other HOF "shutdown corners" who seemed to think tackling was the safety's job.
-- Fred Waiss
Well-put. It was Bailey's tackling and willingness to help in the running game that separates him from other cornerbacks such as Deion Sanders.
To illuminate his effectiveness, you can note Pro Football Focus' numbers on his tackling efficiency. Four times in the five seasons from 2008-12, Bailey ranked in the league's top five cornerbacks (minimum 500 snaps) in PFF's tackling grading system, finishing second in 2008, fifth in 2009, third in 2010 and sixth in 2012.
Bailey was a complete cornerback, and being the second Bronco to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer (behind John Elway in 2004) is a deserved honor to reward his sustained excellence.