Given the Denver Broncos' heavy investment in the secondary this offseason, it stands to reason that two of the largest beneficiaries will be the team’s two stud pass rushers — Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. While 2018 saw the duo rack up a prolific number of sacks with Miller accumulating 14.5 and Chubb nabbing 12 himself, since then, neither has been really able to see the field together much due to injuries.
However, this year with both players set to hit the field, along with the re-tooled secondary, one could expect big things from the Miller-Chubb pairing in 2021.
One analyst already singing the praises of what Miller and Chubb will do this upcoming season is CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. In his article projecting the NFL stat leaders this coming season, La Canfora praised both Broncos’ edge rushers and expects big things in 2021, and predicted Miller to win Comeback Player of the year.
I already chronicled the kind of year I believe Von Miller will have. But he is not as young and twitchy and in-his-prime as Chubb. Chubb has gone through two trying seasons in which things have not gone his way and he has not had around him what was expected. That will change in 2021. He will grasp, fully, what Fangio has created for him and edge out Chase Young for the sack lead. And then he will get a massive payday. This Broncos defense has the makings of a truly elite unit if the top individuals take a step forward, and I anticipate they do just that.
Vic Fangio is now comfortable in what tools he has and is a little more at ease with being a head coach. Not that there aren't some rough edges and issues here, but he has a lot of toys to play with at this point.
After a lost season, and now in the final year of his deal, it's time for Miller to regain his position as one of the dominant pass rushers in the game. You've got to love the scheme and the array of talent around him.
While Comeback Player of the Year is a great award to project for Miller, it can be argued that La Canfora projected even better things for Chubb next year in predicting him to lead the entire NFL in sacks in 2021.
Discussions will continue to rage about the Broncos' offense and the quarterback position. However, even if Denver has bottom-5 quarterback play again in 2021, as the team did in 2020, with a re-tooled secondary and the return of Miller and Chubb to the level La Canfora projects, the Broncos will have a real shot at returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
If the 2021 version of the Broncos is going to go anywhere in 2021, it will very likely be on the backs of its defense. With a defense-oriented head coach in Fangio, along with the team's ample investments on that side of the ball this offseason, the Broncos re-bought in on strengthening a once-formidable defense that had become rather long in the tooth.
Most obviously, the Broncos upgraded the cornerback position. What was once the vaunted No Fly Zone became a unit fielding sixth and seventh-string corners.
That won’t cut it anywhere in today’s NFL, but that is especially unacceptable in the AFC West which boasts arguably the best quarterbacks in the NFL. With the additions of Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, and Patrick Surtain II to go with Bryce Callahan and Michael Ojemuida (along with safety play led by arguably the best in the NFL currently in Justin Simmons), the Broncos secondary should be ready to go in 2021.
Who Benefits the Most?
Why, the pass rushers, of course. As any good pass rusher would tell you, it’s easier to get after the quarterback and create chaos when the cover players behind them are talented. There is a positive feedback loop to stopping the passing game. When cover players can cover even half a second longer, it helps the rushers.
When the pass rushers can get home just a half a second sooner, it really helps the coverage. That symbiosis was one of the reasons the Broncos’ 2015 defense was so special. An elite pass rush combined with elite cover corners? That’s a recipe for defensive success in the modern era of football.
If Denver can simply get league-average quarterback play, the playoffs should be all but a guarantee this season.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH.
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