Dolphins’ Bradley Chubb enters first game vs. Broncos since trade on a high note

Bradley Chubb had returned from the Denver Broncos’ trip to London and decided to get food with his girlfriend. It was hours before the 2022 trade deadline and, while he heard the rumors about a possible deal involving him, he wanted to take his mind off the speculation.

So the couple headed to Sierra, a local restaurant about five minutes from his home — when his phone buzzed. It was Denver general manager George Paton.

“[I] answered the phone, looked at her and said, ‘We’re going to Miami,’” he recalled Wednesday.

Chubb, 27, has previously acknowledged the news rocked him, being traded from the team that drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the 2018 Draft and a place he had known as home.

“It was very difficult,” he said. “When you pour your heart into someplace for four years, four-and-a-half years, you want to see it turn out well. You want to see the wins start to add up and I just never got to that point there. It was disappointing not reaching that goal, but I got new goals.

“That wasn’t God’s plan for me to win there. God’s plan for me to is be in Miami and do everything I possibly can to help this team win as many games as we possibly can and kind of shift my focus from helping one organization to helping another organization. And that’s been my main thing this offseason, and this whole transition period is just how can I help the Miami Dolphins be the best they possibly can be? And that just starts with me being the best me I can be.”

Chubb, who was given a $110 million extension shortly after the trade, has approached his new situation with a fresh outlook. And Sunday, Chubb will face his former team for the first time since last year’s trade deadline deal.

“I’m not going to even lie to you and say it doesn’t [mean a lot],” he said. “It’s going to mean a lot to go out there and play a lot of those guys that I built relationships with, I called brothers for a while. It’s a big thing, but I can’t approach it like that on Sunday. It’s another game, and [I’ve] got to go out there with the same mindset that, okay, this is a team that has a scheme and is going to try to run the ball, pass the ball and. So, [I’ve] go to go out there and just do what I do.”

A full offseason program for Chubb and reuniting with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who was his head coach for three seasons in Denver, has given him greater comfort. And in Miami’s Week 2 win against the New England Patriots, Chubb had perhaps his best game as a Dolphins to date.

Chubb recorded seven tackles, two quarterback hits and one sack in the victory. He also forced a fumble that was recovered by Miami as New England was advancing into Dolphins territory toward the end of the first quarter.

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) is being sacked by Miami Dolphins linebacker Bradley Chubb (2) during fourth quarter of an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023 in Foxborough, MA.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) is being sacked by Miami Dolphins linebacker Bradley Chubb (2) during fourth quarter of an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023 in Foxborough, MA.

“It was really nice to see him have a good productive game,” Fangio said Thursday, “and hopefully that kick-starts him to a great season.”

Chubb said he’s not sure if last Sunday’s outing was his best since coming to Miami. “It’s subjective,” he answered when asked about it.

But it was a gratifying outcome, nonetheless, for Chubb and a Dolphins defense that struggled in the season-opening win against the Los Angeles Chargers. It was especially important with bookend pass rusher Jaelan Phillips sidelined by a back injury.

“I wasn’t happy with my performance,” Chubb said of Week 1. “I wasn’t happy with how we played as a defense and throughout the whole week was focused on being the best me and being the best me means helping the defense be the best us. [I] just kind of took that approach throughout the whole week with my studying, with how I ran to the ball and practice and stuff like that and it carried over on Sunday. So I got the formula now. I’ve just got to make sure I continue to do it.”

The counting stats that many use to grade pass rushers were fleeting for Chubb in the half season he spent in Miami after the trade. In eight games, he recorded 2.5 sacks — he had 5.5 in the eight games before the trade — while dealing with injuries that sidelined him once and hobbled him in the second half of the season.

But in general manager Chris Grier’s end-of-season news conference, he said he was pleased was Chubb’s play and noted how many of the team’s key metrics improved after his arrival. The Dolphins ranked 21st in pressure rate before trading for Chubb but improved to 11th in the eight games after he joined the team. Miami was tied for 21st in sacks and improved to tied for sixth during the same timeframe. Chubb also ranked seventh in ESPN’s pass rush win rate, defined as how often a player beats his blocker within 2.5 seconds.

And Sunday, it all came together, from Chubb’s individual performance to a defense looking more like the unit many anticipated in the offseason.

“It’s been production is more of a when, not if,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. I think it’s awesome to see earned production. I think what’s unique about Bradley and one of the reasons why we chose to acquire him, and we chose to pay him, is because he is a difference maker that is also selfless.

“I think a lot of times, particularly at the edge position in the National Football League, it’s almost like a receiver blocking. You have to, as an edge player, defend the run if you want your team to be good, but you don’t necessarily get direct compensation all the time for it. Guys get paid for sacks. So when you’re fortunate enough to have a guy that can get sacks, but also takes extreme pride in the overall complexion of the defense and his part in it, you feel very, very fortunate to have that.”