Bradley Chubb's pursuit of rookie sack record mirrors Jevon Kearse's run

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With two games left in the Denver Broncos' season, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb is 2.5 sacks from tying history and three sacks from carving out a pretty significant slice of his own.

The Broncos rookie has 12 sacks with the rookie record of 14.5, set in 1999 by then-Tennessee Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse, in his sights.

“It’s kind of all way back in my mind, way back," Chubb said. “I just want to get that winning feeling again. We’ve had a couple tough losses, so one sack, three sacks, 20 in a game or whatever, I just want to help us win. I’m going to keep that approach."

Others have gotten close. Aldon Smith almost got there, with 14 sacks in 2011. So did Dwight Freeney (13 sacks in 2002), Simeon Rice and Leslie O’Neal, with 12.5 sacks in 1996 and 1985, respectively. But 14.5 still stands, and Chubb has now come closer than any player since Smith’s rookie run.

“You know, it has been something, I would have thought it would have been gone by now," said Cleveland Browns interim coach Gregg Williams, who was the Titans’ defensive coordinator in 1999. “But then as I look back, as I had a chance to coach Jevon in those times, I shake my head on how many other close ones he could have had. He could have legitimately had up near 20 that year. A few of them slipped away from him. [But] that’s a really cool record for Chubb to be chasing."

Jim Washburn was the Titans defensive line coach in 1999. Now retired from the NFL, he also worked with Chubb for several days in Raleigh, North Carolina, earlier this year as Chubb prepared for the NFL draft.

Washburn, who has coached a long line of players including Kearse and Ndamukong Suh, said he knew there was something about Chubb even before they set foot on the practice field.

“... We got on the field, and just his approach in our meetings, our drills, everything, none of it is too big for him," Washburn said. "I just think God put him together to play football. His parents certainly did their job in how he works and how he treats people, and God certainly did his job too because that guy is doing what he was meant to do."

In some ways, Chubb’s rookie season has mirrored Kearse's. Kearse had a three-sack game against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 of his rookie season, but those were the only sacks he had in the first six games, as he had made the switch from linebacker in the University of Florida’s defense to left defensive end in the Titans' defense.

Chubb was making the transition from a more traditional defensive end in college to a 3-4 outside linebacker with the Broncos. It brought more responsibilities in pass coverage as well as run defense, and as result, Chubb had 1.5 sacks in his first five games this season.

“We were asking him to do things that were different for him," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “There was some transition, but you see what he can do, and he’s put in the work."

“... Everything that Chubb is doing on the field has all been Chubb," Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller said. "It’s all been him. His hard work, his dedication -- it hasn’t been me and DeMarcus [Ware] showing him moves or anything like that. It’s all been Chubb, and it’s exciting to see."

Chubb has registered 10.5 sacks in the past eight games, and he did lose a sack in Saturday night’s loss to the Cleveland Browns when the Broncos were flagged for a holding penalty in the secondary. The Broncos face the Oakland Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers in the final two games of season.

Chubb did not have a sack in the Week 2 meeting with the Raiders and had a sack of Phillip Rivers in the Broncos’ Nov. 18 win over the Chargers.

“I’ve watched through the years as people got close [to Kearse's record], and it’s just stood," Washburn said. “I told Chubb, ‘You know what, I’m giving you permission to break Jevon’s record.’ He laughed, and I don’t know how I feel about that now. Guys have gotten close, and it’s just been there, but this kid, he’s got what it takes."