Pass rush with Bradley Chubb, Von Miller together potential cure for Broncos' playoff blues

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Of all the things the Denver Broncos want to see as training camp unfolds, linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb together in the defense is near the top of the list.

The high hopes of what the two could do together in a defense are memories that have grown more distant, as it's been almost two years since the two played in the same regular-season game.

"We do just want to go out there and do what we're supposed to do," Miller said. "... We do want to live up to our potential, play the way we know we can. We've seen it and want to see it again."

The Broncos have seen it, sure, but they have also played their last 28 regular-season games without Chubb, their first-round pick in 2018, and Miller, their most tenured player, lined up together, trying to make the opposing quarterback's life a little more miserable.

Chubb tore his ACL on Sept. 29, 2019, during a Week 4 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Chubb played almost a full quarter after he suffered the injury, even forcing a fumble on Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II with 1:18 left in the game. When the ligament tear was discovered, Broncos coach Vic Fangio said "[Chubb] was as surprised as anybody."

Chubb missed the rest of that season, as Miller fought the frustrations of an eight-sack season (his lowest total since 2013) and plenty of double teams.

Last summer, with Chubb having toiled in the almost empty Broncos' complex to rehab during the COVID-19 pandemic, Miller looked as good as ever in training camp. Visions of a sack-filled season danced in almost everyone's head before Miller suffered a season-ending ankle injury days before the regular season, as an otherwise non-descript practice drew to a close.

Then it was Chubb's turn to fight off the double-team frustration, an inevitable result of Miller being in the training room, until an ankle injury ended his season with two games to play. Chubb stayed on the grind to finish with eight sacks and his first Pro Bowl selection.

Which brings the Broncos to now, roughly two weeks from the beginning of training camp. They're once again making plans for what a defense with a much-improved secondary could do if offenses are forced to choose who between Miller and Chubb to double team.

"[Miller] has been training for two years now ... training his butt off out there in California, and he's never looked any better," said Broncos kicker Brandon McManus, Miller's closest friend on the team.

"I'm excited to watch him finally, for two years now, to get back out there and dominate like he did before. For the defense and the team as well, it's a huge mood boost to have somebody, the franchise sack leader, on the field with you and the way he's able to disrupt and help Bradley on the other side and help everybody on the field because it is similar, as you know, from our 2015 year."

That sentiment isn't something just tossed out lightly by the Broncos, given their 2015 defense will always hold a special place in the trophy case, as Miller was the Super Bowl Bowl 50 MVP after the Broncos led the league in total defense, pass defense and sacks en route to the franchise's third Super Bowl title.

Chubb had ankle surgery early in this offseason and the Broncos expect him to participate in training camp and be ready for the start of the regular season. Miller looked to be in mid-season form in June, so much so that when asked about starting his 11th year in the league he responded: "I'm still running around here beating everybody's ass."

The lure of it all is enticing for the Broncos. Especially since Miller and Chubb have combined for 29.5 sacks (16.5 for Miller, 13 for Chubb) in the 20 games they've played together.

And for a team that waved its checkbook at free-agent cornerbacks like Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby before using its No. 1 pick on Alabama corner Pat Surtain II in the draft, a pass rush with Miller and Chubb could make the Broncos a force no matter who wins their quarterback competition.

"I've said Von proved that nobody in this league can block him one-on-one, he can have his way and do whatever he wants in this league and get sacks on anybody he wants," Chubb said earlier this year. "The past two years, these injuries have taken away from us as an organization and we haven't been able to show what we can do. With us on the field, it's going to be huge."

"I want to do what I know I can do, perform my best, with me and Chubb out there," Miller said. "Get sacks, force turnovers, make big plays at big times, win games."