Reporter of the AFC Est
Bradley Chubb has been hearing Von Miller’s voice in his head for the past few weeks, particularly one piece of advice Miller gave Chubb during his rookie season. He has proven invaluable since the Denver Broncos traded the lead to the Miami Dolphins a month ago, a move that boosted the team’s Super Bowl expectations.
“I was feeling pressure to be a first-round pick,” Chubb told FOX Sports. “[Miller] he sat me down and said, “Man, to have that pressure on you, it’s a privilege.” You show all these people what you can do. Everyone expects it. You can’t just run away from it. You just have to embrace it.”
That advice is how Chubb has dealt with growing expectations about the Dolphins’ Super Bowl chances. He has accepted the challenge, not letting expectations get out of hand.
“If we all keep that winning mentality and that winning culture, I have a feeling we’re going to do some damage for sure,” he said.
Does the Chubb trade put the Dolphins on par with the Chiefs and Bills?
After the Dolphins acquired OLB Bradley Chubb from Denver just before the Nov. 1 trade deadline, Joy Taylor offered her thoughts on whether the move put Miami on the level of the AFC’s top teams .
There are no questions about the Dolphins offense, which is on pace to finish in the top five in nearly every stat.
But the defense? This is where the questions lie. This is where the Dolphins will need to improve. They are in the middle of the league in points per game and yards per game allowed. They rank 17th in DVOA, an advanced stat that measures overall efficiency. That probably won’t be enough to get the team where it wants to go.
Chubb, even in a state of transition, must be a deciding factor in improving this defense if the Dolphins (8-3, second in the AFC) are going to compete for a Super Bowl.
“Let’s continue five years and [I’ve] he’s never been in the conversation this late in the season,” Chubb said this week.
With the Broncos, he never made the playoffs.
Denver and Miami are so different for many different reasons. But the two football teams are entirely different case studies of going all-in for a season. The Broncos looked poised to make a Super Bowl run before Week 1, with quarterback Russell Wilson looking like the missing piece on a talented team. But his season has been a disaster, in part because his offensive pieces, including Wilson, haven’t clicked. Meanwhile, the Dolphins went all out and every acquisition seems to be working, from Tyreek Hill to Terron Armstead to Jeff Wilson to Chubb.
And so it’s fair to wonder if Chubb felt like he stepped off the Titanic, just in time.
“In the short term, what I already see is life being injected into me,” Chubb told me. “And it’s just a fresh start with also having a team that has that winning mentality and that winning culture. So it’s been dope, man, just to see where I was a couple weeks ago mentality-wise and see where i am now it’s crazy how far you could go.
“So it’s not like I jumped off the Titanic. God put me in this position, man. So now I’ve got to make the most of it.”
His teammates and coaches are certainly impressed with the way he’s picked up the playbook in such a short amount of time. In his debut in Week 9, Chubb managed to play 54 snaps (73%). Recorded one tackle and two pressures. Per Pro Football Focus, it was his second-lowest defensive grade of the season (including the other two games he’s played since the Dolphins).
It wasn’t the easiest start for Chubb. He will admit it. You have to understand the context of the whirlwind that Chubb experienced.
Let’s go back to trade deadline day. He had just flown back from London, where the Broncos had played in Week 8, when he started seeing reports on Twitter that Denver might trade him. Sure enough, he received a phone call from CEO George Paton.
“As soon as he told me I was being traded to Miami, I wish they weren’t zoned out. I’m not going to lie to you,” Chubb told reporters earlier this month.
Five minutes later, Chubb was on the phone with Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel and learned he would be on a plane to Miami that night.
“It’s never real until it’s not real, you know? So once I got the call,” he told me, “everything started running through my head, like, ‘What’s the scheme going to be?’ Who will my teammates be? where will i stay All these things had a lot on my mind. I’m just thinking, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to pick up and move.'”
Chubb is 26 years old. For the first time since leaving college at NC State, he had to move. He had to change employers. And he had the equivalent of five hours notice.
So trying to shake off the negativity, and jet lag from London, he boarded that private jet a few hours later and went to sleep. He was so tired he didn’t even wake up when the plane landed in Dallas to pick up Wilson, the other player Miami acquired at the trade deadline.
After landing in Miami, Chubb had no idea where he would be living for the next few days. He arrived at the Dolphins facility for the team’s first practice Wednesday in preparation for the Chicago Bears that Sunday. Even in training, he felt out of place. It started during warm-ups.
“I’m looking around like, ‘Am I doing good? Take me too,'” Chubb said. “I was like, ‘Oh man, this is going to be so different. It’s going to be crazy. Why is this happening to me? Why do I have to be the one to hold and move?'”
Chubb was simply trying to survive that first week. In his second week in Miami, everything began to change. He started looking for tricks to learn defense. He was writing plays six times to make sure he memorized them. He questioned himself and had his girlfriend ask him questions. He worked tirelessly to prepare. And his new companions picked him up.
“It was kind of a relief, like a sense of happiness came over me just to be in a whole new system with new guys and be able to let my light shine with new people and be myself,” he said. said Chubb.
In the last two games, Chubb has recorded 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and eight pressures. The coaching staff has toyed with the ways the defense can use him. And coaches will continue to experiment, which may not produce the most amazing PFF grades in the short term. Although in Week 10 against the Cleveland Browns, Chubb posted his third-best PFF grade (76.2) of the season.
“He’s an extremely hard worker,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer said in November. “He’s here early, he’s out late. It’s important to him. He’s also a phenomenal person. Right off the bat, I’d say he’s a charismatic individual.”
There is room to grow. Chubb will come to understand this defense. He will get to serve as a leader in a blockbuster that already had many vocal veterans. And he’ll be working in concert with a set of excellent frontcourt defenders in Jaelan Phillips, Melvin Ingram and Andrew Van Ginkel.
This should help set up the Dolphins defense to be very successful going forward, both this season and in seasons to come. Chubb, who made the Pro Bowl in 2020, has a chance to be the face of this defense and a perennial Pro Bowl player. He can elevate his star status beyond what it was in Denver. And that’s what made his number 2 selection interesting.
“It’s the second part of my life,” he said. “My whole adult life I’ve been in Denver. It’s the second part. It’s a new beginning. It’s a new whole.”
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Prior to joining FOX Sports as an AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.
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