The Denver Broncos’ season officially begins tonight, and I’m as excited as anyone- particularly about Year 2 of the Miller-Chubb pass rushing juggernaut. But amid the anticipation and enthusiasm, I want to take a moment to put down the orange-tinted glasses and point Broncos Country toward a realistic idea of what the NFL’s best duo of edge rushers are likely to accomplish tonight.
And that’s this: 2.0 combined sacks on Derek Carr, or less.
Yes, I’m predicting that Von Miller and Bradley Chubb manage only 2 sacks between them, at most.
Why? Well, it’s not about them, actually. It’s about Derek Carr. One of the offseason analysis trends this year explored the theory that sacks are a QB stat as much as they are an OL stat. And there’s merit to the idea. Some QBs stand tall in the pocket to try and make a throw under pressure, while others throw it away, and still others intentionally focus on shallow targets so that they pass is gone before the pass rusher have any chance.
Derek Carr is one of those QBs. His first and favorite response to Von Miller, throughout their meetings, has been to focus on getting the ball out quickly. And while Carr is painfully average in many respects, getting the ball out fast is one area where he’s actually really good. And that has, in large part, been very successful at limiting Miller’s impact.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the last 5 years:
- 2018: Broncos sacked Carr 2 times in 2 games. Miller: 1.0, Chubb: 0.0
- 2017: Broncos sacked Carr 5 times in 2 games. Miller: 1.5
- 2016: Broncos sacked Carr 4 times in 2 games. Miller: 1.0
- 2015: Broncos sacked Carr 7 times in 2 games. Miller: 2.0, Ware: 0.0
- 2014: Broncos sacked Carr 3 times in 2 games. Miller: 1.0, Ware 0.0
With Antonio Brown gone, the Oakland Raiders have a very limited ability to stretch the field vs the Broncos tonight. So expect Carr to lean on his tried and true method for playing the Broncos, with a focus on quick throws to targets in shallow to intermediate areas of the field. Passes to RB Josh Jacobs and TE Darren Waller should be a relatively consistent sight, along with passes targeting WR Hunter Renfrow out of the slot.
In the past, as evidenced by the list above, the Broncos have had limited success in countering Carr’s quick passing game. So what can Vic Fangio and company do this year?
The scheme itself may help a good bit. With more zone play mixed in, the secondary will have a bit more ability to read & react to short passes, with the inherent potential for picks and pick-sixes. Bryce Callahan being out will make that more challenging than it would otherwise be, but the Broncos should still have the personnel to pull it off.
Shelby Harris may be another player who can have a significant role. The monster in the middle of the Broncos’ preseason defense may have nice opportunities to push the middle of the pocket vs the Raiders’ weakened O-line, and almost nothing ruins a quarterback’s day like pressure right in their face.
Miller and Chubb will do their parts as well. And their impact goes far beyond just sacks, even if they do only get 1 or 2 between them. Hits and pressures can help rattle Carr, and their mere presence forces the Raiders to scheme differently and devote extra resources to countering them, thus opening up opportunities for guys like Shelby Harris. I expect both players to have a great game- it just probably won’t be one rife with that flashiest of pass rushing stats.
How many sacks do you think Von Miller and Bradley Chubb combine for tonight?
This poll is closed
Less than 1.0
1.0 to 1.5
2.0 to 2.5
3.0 or more