ENGLEWOOD • Big, bad Bradley Chubb can’t go to Target. Poor fella.
“I might get recognized a little too much. I try to go to Target to get something real quick and there’s a bunch of people trying to stop me,” the Broncos’ 22-year-old defensive star tells me.
Goodness gracious, Denver. What’s a man coming off one of the best rookie seasons in Broncos history gotta do to get a soap dispenser or fluffy set of bath towels around here?
“I’ll just be walking in the store and they’re yelling my name! They’re passionate. I’m passionate. Good fit. Honestly, I love the fans here. I’m ready. I’m ready right now.”
To its credit, Colorado knows what good football looks like — and when a sinkhole is sold as a stash of diamonds, like the Vance Joseph era. Good riddance.
Does the rest of the football world know? Flip on NFL Network, ESPN or scramble over to what’s left of Sports Illustrated, and the Broncos conversation centers around Joe Flacco, BMOC Von Miller or the rise, rehab and injury status of Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay.
Y’all forgot about Chubb. As the Broncos hustled into Day 2 of minicamp, the heir to Von’s throne toiled in relative quiet. Chubb must be the most overlooked rookie to ever score 12 sacks — five more than next closest rookie, 2.5 shy of the NFL record set in 1999 by Jevon Kearse.
While it’s the Broncos quarterback who invariably moves the needle at Dove Valley, this season is going to hinge on the encore of the second-year players who were mature beyond their years during a tumultuous 2018 season. Lindsay. Courtland Sutton. Royce Freeman. Isaac Yiadom. Josey Jewell. And Chubb, who on Wednesday landed the white whale: a real, live compliment from coach Vic Fangio.
“He’s tailor made for us,” Fangio said of Chubb.
These Broncos have some serious question marks. Can first-time NFL coordinator Rich Scangarello mesh with Flacco, who lost his job in Baltimore to a rookie? Is Garett Bolles the answer at left tackle, or should the Broncos pursue disgruntled Redskin Trent Williams in a trade? (Yes, on the latter.) And what’s the deal with this whacky-even-for-Colorado weather, anyway?
“I gotta be honest with you. One thing I hate out here is the weather,” Chubb says. “It might be sunny one minute and there’s hail on your house the next minute. Then it’s sunny again. I mean, look at today. We just had a tornado warning. You heard that? Now it’s sunny again. I mean, come on.”
Spoken like a true transplant. Now it’s time to speak about Chubb.
One word: incoming! The rare area that’s not in question is the pass rush, where Miller and Chubb were paired with Fangio. His Bears defense piled up 50 sacks last season. It’s a match made in heaven for sack artists, hell for left tackles.
“I don’t want to give away (Chubb’s) secrets and what he’s got coming this season, but he’s been working on some particular moves. They’re going to do a lot for him this year,” Miller said.
Miller footed the bill for the pros who attended his annual pass-rush summit in Las Vegas. (The college guys paid their way.) It’s Chubb’s bank account that can benefit the most.
“Huge for me,” Chubb says of working out alongside the likes of All-Pro pass-rushers Melvin Ingram, Aaron Donald and Miller himself. “(I) had a chance to be around all those great players — not only to work with them, but to hear from them. I got to learn what their thought process is, what goes through their head when they see different alignments.
“I’ve got to run my own race. But I want that big contract in the future.”
Fangio moved out of his hotel residence. He’s now a homeowner in Greenwood Village. (The coach still hit up the Broncos equipment crew for an extra light bulb the other day.) Same for Chubb, who scored a couple of acres in Parker.
“Nice and quiet,” says a 20-something who wisely treats his career as a business.
It’s easy money to bet on a No. 5 overall pick becoming a big-time player. What reserved my seat on the Chubb train was meeting his parents, Aaron and Stacey Chubb. They raised a boy into a man with his priorities straight, right down to Bradley’s hands-on involvement in community matters.
“It’s not even the underprivileged people you have to help out. It’s the troops,” Chubb says. “They go out and fight for their lives. We think football’s hard. But they don’t even know if they’re going to make it back to see their family sometimes. Putting a smile on their face for 10 minutes — whether it’s a kid who’s in poverty or these troops — it means the world to me.”
Remember Von’s rookie season? Pretty sweet, like that time he punished the Jets with nine tackles and two sacks. But it really got good in his second season: 18.5 sacks, still a career-high. Just sayin’.
“Him being at the pass rush summit, being around all those guys, you can tell, just tell, he just has a better grasp on the game, his game,” Miller says. “It’s dope to see.”
And those left tackles? Poor fellas.