ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos seek to launch back to respectability, their astronaut continues to do his part. Bradley Chubb — whose Twitter account handle is @astronaut — netted NFL defensive rookie of the month honors for October with a breakthrough stretch.
Chubb, the fifth overall pick in the previous draft, netted 5.5 sacks, 16 tackles (12 solo), five tackles for a loss, 13 pressure, eight quarterback hits and one forced fumble.
"I am getting more comfortable in the scheme," Chubb said last week. "And I have I more confidence to play aggressive."
Chubb ranks eighth overall in the league with seven sacks. He and Von Miller pace all NFL duo's with 15 sacks. Chubb joins Miller (November 2011) and linebacker D.J. Williams (December 2004) as the only Broncos to win the award.
Chubb owns a three-game sack streak, and since 1982 he is one of seven rookies to post 5.5 sacks in a three-game span, and the first since San Francisco's Aldon Smith in 2011. Even more impressive, Chubb remains on pace for a 14-sack season. Tennessee's Jevon Kearse owns the rookie record with 14.5 sacks in 1999.
The Broncos felt fortunate to land Chubb with the fifth overall pick last spring. Once they decided not to move up for a quarterback, namely USC's Sam Darnold, the Broncos figured they would trade out to Buffalo. However, the Cleveland Browns surprised Denver by taking cornerback Denzel Ward, making it easy for the Broncos to stay put and select Chubb. The former North Carolina State star experienced an uneven start, left exposed in pass coverage -- still no good answer why he's used this way -- while fighting nerves that left him timid. With more reps, his confidence swelled, leading the skillset he displayed in college to reveal itself.
Chubb netted three sacks against the Rams and a pair against Arizona, breakthrough weeks that screamed of his talent. Since 2012, only Chandler Jones produced more quarterback pressures through the first eight games of his rookie season than Chubb. Jones netted 34 in 2012 with the Patriots, while Chubb has 32, according to Pro Football Focus.
Even with Chubb's emergence, the defense continues to struggle. The secondary has allowed a flurry of big plays -- Bradley Roby's inconsistency has undermined the group, and he might not play this week with an ankle injury -- and stopping the run was an in issue in early losses to the Jets and Rams. It has left the Broncos at 3-5 and on the verge of falling out of contention while hosting Houston, winners of five straight, this Sunday.
"We know we beat ourselves too many times," said Chubb of a team that has averaged eight penalties per game. "Our main thing is don't beat ourselves and play Bronco football. I feel like when we all get in the zone, and we play a complete game it's going to be scary for other teams."