Miller compares how Chubb walks, talks and carries himself as a 23-year-old linebacker in his second NFL season with memories of himself in 2012 as a 23-year-old linebacker in his second NFL season.
“It’s just so different,” Miller said. “It’s just the first thing I kind of think about, how he goes about things, how he handles himself. I’ll say it, and looking back I know it’s true, but he’s so beyond me in that way, how I was. It means the sky is the limit for him.”
Prying a compliment out of first-year Broncos coach Vic Fangio is difficult, players say, but Fangio has already dropped a big one on Chubb by simply calling him “reliable.” And in the fundamentals-are-everything world of Fangio, reliability is at the top of the to-do list.
As Fangio and his staff continue their evaluation of the players they inherited, Chubb’s progression into his second year is key to the defensive plan. A progression that is rooted in what those around him say is a somewhat rare maturity, both on and off the field, makes it seem he has been around longer than he has.
“I’ve said he was like those toddlers on Instagram — they’re toddlers and they do things like grown men do,” Miller said. “I said that when he was a rookie and I still think that. He’s young, but you talk to him, watch him, and he knows what he wants to do. A grown man.”
Fangio’s coaching résumé is filled with linebackers, especially pass-rushers, who have flourished. Some of them, such as Rickey Jackson, Kevin Greene and Ray Lewis, are enshrined in Canton, while 10 other linebackers have been named to the Pro Bowl in at least one season Fangio was on the team’s defensive staff, including as a defensive coordinator.
There is plenty of football anticipation over what Fangio can do with a player like Miller, who at 30 years old is still at the peak of his football powers and a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate. But the potential impact is the same for Chubb, who challenged the league’s rookie sack record last season, finishing just 2.5 sacks shy of Jevon Kearse’s record of 14.5, set in 1999.
Fangio sees a variety of options for Chubb as the new defensive scheme is installed.
“I think Bradley is in a good spot,” Fangio said. “I do think he is really a guy that we can use and [have success] in this defense. He is a good edge setter. He is versatile. We can play him inside. He is a very reliable player for a young guy — even when he is dropping [into pass coverage], which is rare from those guys who come from college and were primarily defensive ends. He is farther along dropping than most of the guys I’ve seen that have to make that transition.”
Fangio also has said he likes Chubb’s “approach” and the “way he goes about things.”
When Chubb arrived to the Broncos as the team’s first-round pick in the 2018 draft, his parents didn’t talk about how many sacks they hoped he would get or how many games he would help the Broncos win. Instead, his father, Aaron, talked about how he hoped Bradley would always “work for what he gets, earn what he gets.”
For Chubb, it starts with a brief reminder each morning about where he wants to go in all of this.
“I don’t like to really share my goals — I like to keep them to myself,” Chubb said. “Just write them up on my bathroom mirror every day so I see them while I’m brushing my teeth, putting my contacts in and stuff like that. Just something I make sure I look at every day and try to fight for it every day.”
Chubb says it’s also paying “attention to those small little details each and every day because when you become great it doesn’t just happen overnight. It happens because you’re paying attention to one small thing each day.”
“Who says something like that as a young guy?” Miller said with a laugh. “But it’s true, and for most guys you eventually figure that out in the National Football League if you want to be great, if you want to do that for a long time. But a lot of guys might not see that right away, but he’s not like a lot of guys.”