Why Bradley Chubb will have a more productive 2021 season

Sep 15, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb (55) in the third quarter against the Chicago Bears at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

He’s back and he’s lookin’ to sack.

Coming off a season-ending injury, Broncos pass rusher Bradley Chubb finished the 2020 season with 7.5 sacks, leaving many in Broncos country feeling lukewarm about his performance. While sacks are obviously very important on the defensive side of the ball, it may not be the best way to evaluate an NFL pass rusher’s individual performance.

With multiple outside factors playing a part in the overall production of an NFL pass rusher, the new and improved Broncos defense should help Chubb on the stat sheet in the 2021 season.

As a player, it is easy to see why Chubb was so highly thought of coming out of the draft in 2018. He’s big, he’s fast, and he’s physical. What makes him such a good football player is the pairing of his natural ability with technique, allowing him to win in multiple ways.

At 6’4” and 269 pounds, Chubb is huge and can play to his size, winning with power. With heavy hands and the technique to win with a slew of moves you typically see from some of the league’s best power rushers, he is a load to deal with.

While Chubb can win with bull rushes, long arms and clubs, he is not just a one-trick pony. He can most definitely win with quickness, attacking offensive tackles’ outside hand to get upfield. He is by no means a Von Miller level speed rusher but do not let the brute strength and size deceive you; Chubb is plenty athletic and will win in a variety of ways.

Ultimately, this makes him a very complete pass rusher and is a very tough matchup for the majority of offensive tackles in the league.

Unfortunately, fans and analysts alike often use season sack totals to determine how good a pass rusher was for that particular year. In doing this, one would be missing just how much other outside factors play a role in sack totals. While it does frequently show some of the top pass rushers in the league, it is just one piece of context that should be used in a pool of many to find who is actually the best.

For Chubb, he had 12.5 sacks his rookie year and 7.5 sacks this prior year. On a surface level, it is understandable why some assume that he simply did not play as well but on a closer look, other issues seem to have lead to a decrease in production.

For example, he received an outstanding amount of attention from opposing offensive coordinators. While Malik Reed is not bad, he is not exactly someone you have to gameplan to stop.

As seen on the graph above, Chubb’s double team rate was extremely high and especially staggering when compared to fellow pass rusher, Reed.

Next season, the return of Miller should help substantially, ultimately freeing Chubb with more one-on-one opportunities. The last time Chubb and Miller saw the field together was in Chubb’s rookie season where he had 12.5 sacks. If Miller returns to full health in 2021, this could be one of the league’s scariest pass rush duos, making things easier on the entire defense.

A good secondary can make a pass rush look good while a good pass rush can also make a secondary look legendary. When you have both working together, you usually have a dominating defense.

New general manager George Paton made it a point this offseason to improve the secondary after last year’s injury-riddled group did not perform how one would hope. Now with a new and improved group in the back end of Vic Fangio’s defense, Chubb should be able to get home at a higher rate as the quarterback could be forced to hold the ball a bit longer.

The difference between getting a sack or just a pressure could be a split second. For example, despite the 5 sack difference between Chubb’s rookie year and last year, he had the exact same amount of quarterback pressures at 57.

While there may not be a perfect stat to evaluate a pass rusher, focusing on sacks leaves out a ton of context. Most sacks are not even given to the player who was responsible for the sack occurring. Often, a player who gets a quick pressure leads to another player attaining a sack.

This type of analysis happens quite frequently leading to many players either being overrated or underrated by the masses.

At the end of the day, an NFL pass rushers sack production is very contingent on the team around him. There are truly hundreds of ways the opposing team or the team around you could limit the opportunities a pass rusher has at attaining a sack.

With what looks to be a much-improved defense around Chubb, he should have a jump in sack production this season. And that will in turn make the defense deadlier, as well.

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