ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When the Broncos signed Randy Gregory in free agency, General Manager George Paton spoke to the importance of having a wave of pass rushers.
Through three games, the Broncos have ridden that wave to a 2-1 performance and have become one of the league's best defenses.
Gregory and Bradley Chubb have combined for five sacks, 14 tackles, five tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hits and three forced fumbles as they've formed one of the league's best pass-rushing duos.
"Those guys have been pretty dominant," Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said Thursday. "And it's not just in the pass game — in the run game also, they've been doing a great job setting the edge. They've been patient, understanding their responsibility. At the same time, when it's a passing situation, they are full bore, both rushing inside and outside. I think the two of them have so many different things that they can do that they're not limited to just one thing, whether it be stop the run, stop the pass, inside moves, outside moves, bull rush, speed to power, all those things. How we reference it as coaches is it's great to have two guys that can do that. That really does complement both."
In Seattle, Chubb helped Denver hold on to a second-half shutout with a pair of fourth-quarter sacks. Against Houston, Gregory followed his forced fumble against the Seahawks with a strip-sack of Davis Mills. Chubb and Gregory each added a sack of Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 3.
As the Broncos approach a road matchup with the Raiders, it's critical Chubb and Gregory continue their strong start to the season. The Raiders have won four consecutive games against the Broncos, and Las Vegas has scored at least 30 points in three of those four contests.
If the Broncos can get to Derek Carr, though, they should have a chance to flip the result. According to the NFL Research Team, the Raiders are 4-0 when Carr has a passer rating of at least 100 since the start of 2021. When he's posted a quarterback rating below 100.0, the Raiders' record drops to 6-10 — and he hasn't cracked 100.0 in his last nine starts, which is the longest stretch of his career. Carr has also thrown 18 picks since the start of last season, which is the second-highest total in the NFL.
The best way to disrupt Carr's accuracy and rhythm may be through pressure, and Chubb and Gregory will prevent a sizable challenge for the Raiders' tackles. Garett Bolles, who has faced off against both players, knows the difficulty they can pose.
The former second-team All-Pro tackle said there are times that even when he thinks he's slowed up Gregory or Chubb, they find a way to make him pay.
"They're two dynamic rushers," Bolles said. "… They bring such different aspects to the game of what they do. They're dynamic, they're fast, they're strong, they're quick, agile. One's a little bit more powerful than the other, one's a little bit more finesse than the other. One's a little bit more shifty than the other. It's crazy watching those two eat. … It is difficult, because you have to be on your A-game with those two. … You've got to keep your feet moving against those guys at all time, because they can get you. And then when you feel like you've got them, they sneak away and they get you.
"… I feel bad for tackles that have to go against them."
Chubb — who averages the most sacks per game in October than any player since at least 1982 — has yet to record a sack in his five games against the Raiders, but he picked off Carr last year in Las Vegas and nearly scored a touchdown. Gregory, meanwhile, has never played the Raiders.
The only history that matters, though, is that of the last three weeks. And with Chubb and Gregory as anchoring pieces of the Broncos' pass rush, the defense has allowed the second-fewest points of any team.
Against the Raiders, Chubb and Gregory will try to continue to ride that wave.