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Broncos pass rush will be every quarterbacks worst nightmare

Look out. The Denver Broncos pass rush is going to be scary good in 2018.

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NFL: Denver Broncos-Minicamp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If you read much of what I write here, you know that I am huge proponent of a defense that can not only force the opposing offense into third and long (7 yards or more) often, but that can also stop them on 3rd and long.

Now, let’s start with an assumption that you can agree with or disagree with, but the whole discussion will be predicated on this assumption - Bradley Chubb will be better as a rookie than Khalil Mack and only slightly less effective as a pass rusher than Joey Bosa. I will start by explaining why I made this assumption. It has to do with their physical abilities, as measured at the NFL combine. See the table below.

player Bosa Chubb Mack
height (in) 77.25 76.00 74.63
weight (lbs) 269 269 251
40 yd dash 4.86 4.65 4.65
10-yd split 1.68 1.62 1.64
bench 24 24 23
vertical (in) 32.0 36.0 40.0
broad (in) 120 121 127
20yd Shut 4.21 4.41 4.18
3-cone 6.89 7.37 7.08

Bosa has the best change of direction of the three. Chubb is the quickest off the line. Chubb and Mack are equally fast in terms of straight-line speed. Mack has the more powerful lower body relative to his mass. So let’s see how effective Bosa and Mack were as rookies by looking at total pressures (sacks + QBhits + QBhurries) and total pass rush snaps - and the rate stat that combines the two. Pro Football Focus has both Mack and Bosa listed as 3-4 outside linebackers in 2016.

In 2016 Joey Bosa had one pressure for every 5.8 pass rush snaps. As a rookie that was good for fourth among all 3-4 OLB’s in the league (behind Mack, Von Miler and Alex Okafor). For all edge defenders that was good for 10th.

Let’s say that Chubb is able to get close to that as a rookie. The top edge defenders in the league are in the range of one pressure for every 7 pass rush snaps. Super elite edge rushers are usually under six. Khalil Mack was much less effective as a rookie generating 52 pressures on 439 pass rush snaps - one pressure every 8.4 snaps. So Mack was not yet elite as a rookie. In 2017 that figure was down to 6.4 for Mack.

So let’s know look at the rest of the obvious passing down front 5 that I expect Joe Woods to deploy in 2018. This is by who was most effective at pressuring the QB in 2017:

  • LOLB - Von Miller (#1 3-4 OLB pass rusher in 2017 - 5.4 pass rush snaps per pressure)
  • LDE - Shelby Harris (one pressure every 14.9 pass rush snaps)
  • NT - DeMarcus Walker (effective in very limited pas rush snaps - 53 total pass rush snaps with 9 pressures - 5.9 pass rush snaps per pressure)
  • RDE - Bradley Chubb (see the estimate above). Also note that Ryan Kerrigan, who is very comparable physically to Bradley Chubb, was the #2 pass rushing OLB in the league in 2017 with one pressure every 6.3 snaps.
  • ROLB - Shaqil Barrett (one pressure every 7.3 pass rush snaps)

That my friends is some scary pass rushing chops right there, and that doesn’t even count Shane Ray who in 2016 (when he was healthy) got one pressure every 5.7 pass rush snaps. Remember that the best of the best at getting the QB are less than 6 in terms of snaps per pressure.

With the exception of Shelby Harris (who I though was better than that at getting pressure last year), every player on those five would be in the top three at their position as a pass rusher. I doubt that there is a team in the league in 2018 that can match that. Even some of the greatest pass rushing teams of all time might have a hard to matching what that group can do ON PAPER.

It’s still the off-season and two of those five have yet to do much of anything in the NFL, but the sky is the limit for our 2018 pass rush. I would expect this defense to approach the 2015 defense in terms of overall effectiveness if we avoid injuries (as they did) and we get some unexpected contributions from players who are not on the radar right now.

In terms of pass rush, the Eagles were the best in the league in 2017. They generated 361 pressures on 639 drop-backs in the 2017 regular season. Meaning that as a team they pressured the QB once for every 1.77 drop-backs or 56.5% of the time on passing plays. By way of comparison, the Broncos generated 245 pressures on 524 drop-backs, or one pressure for every 2.14 drop-backs. That is 46.7% of the time which was good for 15th in the league in 2017. Barring injury, that should improve dramatically in 2018.


Assuming our top pass rushers all stay healthy, where do you think this pass rush will rank comparatively by the end of the 2018 season?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    One of the best of all time
    (802 votes)
  • 46%
    Elite, but not in the conversation with the best of all time
    (1013 votes)
  • 14%
    Well above average, but not even the best in the league in 2018
    (316 votes)
  • 0%
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    Below average (Chief/Raider trolls - click here)
    (9 votes)
2160 votes total Vote Now