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Bradley Chubb’s versatility is making waves in training camp

Andre Simone Avatar
August 4, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A lot is expected of Bradley Chubb, as it be should from a top-five draft pick.

But most high draft picks aren’t expected to play out of position or fill in for veterans who’re injured a week into their first NFL camps. After all, they’re too busy learning their own responsibilities trying their best to digest the much more complex playbook in the pro game.

But not Chubb, who in a low-key development in the early part of camp, was the first man to fill in for Derek Wolfe after the big lineman suffered a “small stinger” during Tuesday’s practice.

So while his lack of press in the opening week of Denver Broncos training camp might kill some fans excitement, quietly, the rookie’s already having an impact.

Chubb’s got the size and interior pass-rushing juice to fill in for Wolfe, there’s no doubt about that, but he’s always been an outside rusher—or edge—in his career. Filling in for Wolfe as a five-technique in a 3-4 is a different ballgame entirely, where he’d have to take on double teams inside, a job typically suited for 290-pound linemen, not the 270 the rook’s currently listed at. 

The fact that Denver’s coaching staff sees Chubb as competent and strong enough to fill in for their beefy veteran speaks volumes to his versatility on the field.  

The beauty of that versatility is what it allows the defensive coaches to do scheme-wise, as they can utilize Chubb in a multitude of areas and exploit his diversity with a variety of schemes and personnel packages.  

“It’s a good problem to have,” explained defensive coordinator Joe Woods about all the pass rushers he has to his disposal. “When you have that many guys that are really good pass rushers, it gives you the ability to rotate the guys. It gives us the ability to create packages. We have our NASCAR package where we put all four of those guys out on the field at the same time. It’s definitely a luxury. With Chubb’s flexibility, he’s playing the outside linebacker position, playing some 4-3 stuff, playing at the defensive end, so it’s really been good so far.”

More than flash plays, or making opposing offensive lineman look silly, that versatility is what’s stood out most about Chubb in the early part of camp.

“Obviously on sub downs in our NASCAR package,” explained Vance Joseph. “To get a speed rusher on the inside guard or center, that’s impossible for those guys to block. We do have those body types who can rush on guards. In our base package, we have some things we can do to add rushers to the package and to have some coverage ideas behind it.”

Joseph might as well have been talking about Denver’s new No. 55. That’s the matchup that’ll really kill inside offensive lineman with his combination of size and speed. 

“If you have a lot of rushers and a lot of good players that can get to the quarterback on the same field at the same time, I feel like it’s going to be chaos,” said Chubb” I feel like that’s what they try and do, just cause chaos for the offenses and try to find a way to block different things.”

One of the keys to the Bronko Nagurski Award winner’s success is his well-rounded ability to defend the run as well as his much-publicized ability to rush the passer. That’s exactly the type of package of skills that’ll allow coaches to trust him, even this early in his career.

“He’s doing fine. He’s a smart football player,” assessed Joseph. “Learning what to do won’t be his concern. He’s a big guy. He’s powerful, and he can set an edge, so watching him play—obviously versus NFL tackles and tight ends—it hasn’t been a setback for him. He’s a strong guy, he can set an edge, and he can rush the passer, so what we saw from college, we’ve seen some out here.”

Being a smart football player might get ignored during the draft process, when we can get crazy about traits and athletic testing, however, it’s what’s between the ears that separate rookies who are able to contribute immediately from those who are raw and require more seasoning.

The hope in Broncos land is that Chubb certainly will make some big plays, but his impact will go so much further than that. With the highly-touted rookie in their defensive front seven, the personnel packages Denver can use are greatly expanded, while Chubb himself can fill in for just about everyone on the defensive front. 

Of course, this should all be within reason. Yes, Chubb can without a doubt wreak havoc as a defensive end in a four-man front in sub. Watching film, it’s pretty clear that he’s athletic enough to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker, as well. Playing him as a down lineman in the 3-4 base scheme might be too far, a lesson the Broncos should’ve learned from moving second-year player DeMarcus Walker back and forth between the edge and interior which caused him to stall in his rookie year.

Making the same mistake with Chubb would be disastrous. Though, as long as the significantly more physically gifted top-five pick can handle it and the Broncos can strike the right balance, No. 55’s versatility will greatly alter the defense up front in just about every way possible.

All he’s missing now is a few more flash plays in camp before the hype train can truly get rolling.

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