ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — “He’s Khalil Mack and Von Miller put together.”
There was still over a week until the 2018 NFL Draft, and Von Miller already had high praise for Bradley Chubb.
“He is a great player,” Miller continued. “I would love to have him on my team. You don’t come across guys like that often. ... If we could steal a player like that, I’m all for it.”
Nine days later, the Broncos granted Miller’s wish, selecting Chubb with the fifth-overall pick. And while Chubb beamed with excitement as he walked across the draft stage, it paled in comparison to Miller’s celebration.
To be fair, it would have been hard to match Miller — who jumped around and yelled with excitement as the announcement was made.
He knew the addition of Chubb meant the Broncos had two game-changers on either side of the formation — a tandem that could wreak havoc on opposing backfields in 2018 and for years to come.
It didn’t take time for Chubb to prove Miller’s excitement was warranted.
In fact, it took just seconds.
On his very first defensive play, he combined with safety Darian Stewart to sack Russell Wilson in the season-opening victory over the Seahawks. But making an early impact was nothing new to Chubb.
“It was crazy because in college at the start of my senior season, I got a [tackle for loss] on the first play,” Chubb said following the game. “I feel like it was just reoccurring. It’s definitely exciting and something to look forward to.”
And on the other side of the formation, Miller recorded three sacks, his first three-sack game since 2016.
“When he got the first [sack] I was like, ‘OK, he’s so special,’” Chubb said. “When he got the second one, I was like, ‘OK he needs to slow down; I need to get one.’ Then he got the third one, and I was like, ‘All right, this is his game and nobody can take that from him.’ He’s just a great player and I’m happy to be on his sideline.”
It proved to be just the beginning for this duo, though. Miller, boosted by Chubb’s presence, recorded 14.5 sacks, his most since 2012, and Chubb himself registered 12, the most ever by a Broncos rookie. And the Broncos as a team finished the season with 44 sacks — 11 more than the previous year.
“He runs games like Shaq and Kobe,” Miller said. “It’s hard to stop him on the other side.”
After 1.5 sacks in the season’s first five weeks, Chubb showed vast improvement as he settled into the NFL game. In a three-game stretch in October, he accrued 5.5 sacks and captured Defensive Rookie of the Month honors along the way, the first Bronco to win the award since Miler in 2011.
“It just shows the hard work and stuff I’ve been putting into the rest of the season,” Chubb said Nov. 1. “I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I’m happy for the achievement, but right now, I just have to keep working and keep getting back to work and get a win.”
But rushing the passer is just part of a linebacker’s duties, and Chubb showed growth in his coverage responsibilities as well.
“I feel like, honestly, it’s night and day,” Chubb said. “The comfort level I’ve been having out there — the first game the tight ends [were] running across, I wasn’t used to it. Now, I just feel like I’m more comfortable and just have the support of the guys around me. … It’s been good.”
By Week 14, Chubb had broken Miller’s rookie sack record after a two-sack performance against the 49ers. To Miller, that achievement was the result of hours of hard work, adapting to the NFL level and proving why he was one of the best prospects in the draft.
“I mean we drafted him to rush the passer,” Miller said. “Why tweak that? [We] let him go out there and be, and if he asks any questions, I try to answer as best as I can. It’s all been him. His hard work, his dedication… . It’s all been Chubb, and it’s exciting to see.”
When Chubb first arrived at NC State in 2014, he and his recruiting class were tasked with reviving a Wolfpack program that had just gone 3-9, its worst record since 2006.
He sees similarities in Denver, where his rookie class hopes to end the Broncos’ postseason drought.
“When we came in here as a rookie class, they told us that they wanted us to change the culture,” Chubb said Dec. 31. “I feel like my freshman year at NC State, that’s the same thing they told us going in there, and we ended up winning nine games my senior year. I feel like it’s just the same thing happening. God put me in this position for a reason, and I feel like with the guys I’ve got around me, the veterans I’ve got around me, it’s going to be a turning point in this franchise. I feel like it’s going to be in the right direction. That’s just all I’m saying, I promise it’s going to be better than 5-11, 6-10.”
Chubb could very well lead that group. After all, with his combination of size, strength and athleticism, he’s only scratching the surface of what he can become.
Miller knows it.
"I honestly don't even think Bradley has tapped in to the type of player that he's going to be, and he got 12 sacks off the guy that he was this year,” Miller said Dec. 27. “I think it's a huge jump, especially for a pass rusher, from Year 1 to Year 2.
“The way he started, if you can use that as a projection, he's going to be incredible. I'm blessed to be a part of that, and I'm blessed to be a part of his future career.”
Opposing backfields could be on notice for years to come.