If everything goes as hoped, the Broncos’ edge rushers look like they’ll fight for every accolade this season. Von Miller returns from a freak foot injury as an living NFL legend, one of the best pass rushers of his generation and a surefire Hall of Famer. Bradley Chubb is a former top draft pick who made his first Pro Bowl in 2020 after finishing with 58 pressures by Sports Info Solutions charting to go with seven and a half sacks.
The two are so good they’ve made it easy to forget about last year’s sack leader, Malik Reed.
Malik Reed comes in clutch with his second sack of the day. pic.twitter.com/bQrZf6Bb9P— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) October 18, 2020
How good can the big three be, really?
Since Bradley Chubb entered the league as the Broncos’ fifth overall pick in 2018, he and Miller have played a grand total of 20 games together, with 16 of those during Chubb’s rookie season. During that time the pair combined for 109 pressures, 25.5 sacks, and Chubb pushed for the rookie sack record. Beyond the individual production, the Broncos’ defense finished with the 6th best DVOA in 2018 and would have ranked higher if not for an injury to Chris Harris Jr. that contributed to Miller and Chubb going sack-less to close the year.
When Vic Fangio replaced Vance Joseph, the hope was the architect of the 2018 Bears would help unlock Chubb and Miller’s full potential. So far he’s had four games to try, and they all came at the beginning of his tenure when the secondary was still struggling to grasp his system. The edge rushers finished with zero sacks through the first three games, and Chubb’s roughing the passer penalty against Mitch Trubisky in the week 2 gave the Bears their opportunity to win the game.
Chubb’s first sack in the week four loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars proved to be his last because of a torn ACL. His injury left the pass rush completely reliant on Miller in 2019 and he came through with 63 pressures, more than twice any other Broncos’ defender.
Since Chubb’s injury, the Broncos’ two best pass rushers haven’t seen the field together. Miller’s injury before week one last season robbed him of the 2020 campaign, which opened the door for Malik Reed to establish himself as an undrafted steal. He turned a promising rookie season into a team leading sack campaign last year to go with his 35 pressures.
If Miller can return to his 2019 form at 32-years old, Fangio will have the best edge room in football. That Miller has more help than he did in 2019 should help to mask if he’s lost a step. If health luck shines on them, this should be the Broncos’ best edge rotation since 2016.
“It really kind of feels like having Shane Ray and having Shaq and the type of relationship that we had. We spent so much time together. It really kind of feels like that. Before Malik got here, I told everybody in the room, I said, ‘I’m not raising no more kids in the outside linebackers [room]. I got Shaq, he left me. Shane, he left me.’ You get all these guys that come in and leave me, and my heart really can’t take it anymore. But Malik, he’s just a special guy and he works extremely hard and it rubs off on me. I think that’s the type of people I need to be around going into Year 11. The guys are going to continue to drive me, continue to push me to be a better player and be a better teammate.”
The way the Broncos toyed around with Chubb as a Joker a season ago means there’s a road for Fangio to get all three on the field together on passing downs. All three can win one-on-ones and each is capable of dropping into space. Add in what Shelby Harris and Dre’Mont Jones can do from the interior and I’m prepared for quarterback tears this year.
Someday we need to have a conversation about how sacks aren't the only thing a pass rusher provides...— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) August 7, 2020
Von Miller pic.twitter.com/Rfig8tT4vC
Is there any reason to pay attention to the backup battles?
Looking back at how Fangio’s rosters tend to shake out suggests the Broncos will carry four edge rushers on the active roster. Miller, Chubb, and Reed are about as close to locks as it gets. Derek Tuszka, Andre Mintze, and Jonathan Cooper are in a bubble battle. While the fourth edge rusher isn’t going to make a lot of headlines, he’ll be a part of the rotation on defense and be a part of the special teams.
With Miller and Reed playing on expiring contracts, there’s a decent chance one or maybe even two practice squad spots could be devoted to edge prospects. This is also a room where George Paton could feasibly sift through the last wave of free agency and waiver claims to add competition.
The 239th pick of the 2021 draft, Cooper joins the Broncos after a long career with the Ohio State. A three year starter who missed 10 games to an ankle injury in 2019, the Buckeye still played in 45 games and finished as a team captain on last year’s squad that made it to the National Title game.
Cooper’s the kind of fighter that’s hard to root against. He was diagnosed with arrhythmia and underwent multiple heart surgeries when he was 14 years old to address his abnormal heart rhythm. He’s fought through a high right ankle sprain that required tight rope surgery as well as a hernia surgery.
If his recovery from the recent heart surgery goes as hoped, Cooper’s get off, motor, and hands could make him a darling this preseason. He’s a savvy player who knows how to play to his help, which should endear him to the Bill Kollar, Ed Donatell, and Vic Fangio.
I’m curious to see how Cooper’s preseason goes because he’s the lone Paton pick, as Derek Tuszka is a 7th round pick from 2020 and Andre Mintze is an undrafted free agent. Cooper’s transition to the Fangio defense looks the hardest. The fact his pass rush plan is rudimentary after five years learning from the Buckeye’s Larry Johnson raises alarm bells. He needs to get stronger and on top of that, he’s a 4-3 edge who rushed from a three point stance his entire career. The adjustment to more space could take time.
An undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt, Mintze played off the ball early in his career before he settled in as an Edge rusher in 2020. Like Malik Reed, he’s an undersized rusher who has issues against bigger players. During his career with the Commodores he won with his quickness, motor and by converting speed to power.
Andre Mintze with the hesi/double swipe/rip@dremintze sets up his rush & throws the double swipe twice to clear the blockers hands. Mintze finished with a rip & ended up with a sack!— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) November 22, 2020
If you beat the hands, you beat the man! #passrush #nfldraft #anchordown #rti pic.twitter.com/NuemwTMNZl
Like Cooper, he’s easy to root for. A two-time team captain who started the Dancing Dores to raise money for the Vanderbilt Children’s hospital, he helped raise $60,000 the last two years. He’s fought back from tearing his left ACL three different times to make it to the Broncos’ training camp.
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That means the Broncos are doing a much better job than the league as a whole, where NFL Network reported that 68 percent of all players have had at least one shot. The NFL is expected to ease restrictions on player gatherings for teams that have at least 85 percent of players fully vaccinated.
Kendall Hinton’s one-game stint as Denver’s starting QB in 2020 will forever be part of NFL lore. The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced this week that Hinton’s wristband would be part of its “Season Review” display.
Best- and worst-case scenarios for every AFC team ahead of the 2021 NFL season | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF
DENVER BRONCOS 10th percentile outcome: 5-12 How they get there: Denver’s deficiencies at the quarterback position are too much to overcome, whether Drew Lock (29th out of 32 quarterbacks in PFF grade last season) or Teddy Bridgewater (26th) end up drawing the start. Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and company continue to see inaccurate passes at one of the highest rates in the NFL — only the Eagles had a higher percentage of their passes charted as uncatchable than Denver last season. That’s difficult for a team to overcome, even with talent elsewhere on the roster. 90th percentile outcome: 10-7 How they get there: The influx of new talent at the cornerback position and the return of Von Miller from injury push the Broncos defense toward the elite tier in 2021. But more importantly, Denver receives better injury luck and quarterback play than they did last season. The latter portion of that statement stems from more consistent play from Lock, whose 6.8% big-time throw rate in 2020 was a top-five mark at the quarterback position. It’s been his accuracy and carelessness with the football, not his ability to hit the occasional impressive throw, that has been the issue thus far.
The similarities are there. The talent is real. There is just one missing piece to the puzzle.
Let’s talk about where the speedy 2nd year wideout stands in a crowded receiving group.
What does Brett Rypien bring to the Broncos’ QB room?
"I'm guessing that when we finish the season, Teddy will have started more games than Drew Lock." #Broncos— NFL Podcasts (@NFL_Podcasts) July 9, 2021
Daniel Jeremiah and @BuckyBrooks cover AFC QB battles and more on the latest @MoveTheSticks Podcast ⬇️
SPOTIFY https://t.co/JkvhuDoOxq pic.twitter.com/uTxue84u7R
Ultimately, Clark faces discipline from the league based on the substantive allegation of felony possession of an assault weapon. Beyond the fact that he can’t play if incarcerated, the NFL could suspend him without pay.
Formally charged with felony possession of an assault weapon, Frank Clark faces up to three years - ProFootballTalk
Another hearing in the case happens next week. Clark undoubtedly faces discipline under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy, if he ultimately pleads guilty to any charges, or if he’s convicted. With a felony charge official filed against him, the more immediate question becomes whether the Commissioner will place him on paid leave. The policy gives the Commissioner broad discretion to place on the Commissioner-Exempt list any player who has been charged with a felony.
When someone buys a business, they’re often able to deduct almost the entire sale price against their income during the ensuing years. That allows them to pay less in taxes. The underlying logic is that the purchase price was composed of assets — buildings, equipment, patents and more — that degrade over time and should be counted as expenses. But in few industries is that tax treatment more detached from economic reality than in professional sports. Teams’ most valuable assets, such as TV deals and player contracts, are virtually guaranteed to regenerate because sports franchises are essentially monopolies.
Former Baltimore Ravens analyst Sean Clement explores the opposing viewpoints of old-school football coaches and modern-era data-driven observers, and how the two must find a way to work together to get the most out of players such as Lamar Jackson.
“I haven’t decided anything,” Fitzgerald said. “Training camp starts in a few weeks. I’m excited, it’s going to be another great year for the NFL.” It’s unclear to what extend the Cardinals even want Fitzgerald back. Although they wouldn’t publicly say they don’t want one of the most beloved players in franchise history, Fitzgerald will turn 38 last month and is coming off a season in which he had career-lows in catches (54), yards (409), yards per catch (7.6) and touchdowns (one). The Cardinals signed veteran wide receiver A.J. Green and drafted Rondale Moore in the second round, and they may not think Fitzgerald has a role in their offense going forward.