The Denver Broncos made a splash by signing free-agent edge rusher Randy Gregory to pair with Bradley Chubb. While this duo is made up of two high-quality starters, the respective injury history of Chubb and Gregory leaves Broncos Country wondering whether they’ll be able to play an entire season.
If either leaves the lineup, how much of a drop-off can fans expect?
In 2021, Chubb only played seven games and failed to sack the quarterback. 2018 — his rookie year — was the only season where he played 16 games and he notched 12 sacks. Gregory has also had problems with his availability, whether due to injury or suspensions.
When he’s on the field, Gregory is an absolute beast. He only notched six sacks last year in Dallas, but he had a 15.2% pressure rate, which was the ninth-most in the NFL last season.
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Malik Reed has played in the Mile High City for three seasons — with 34 games as a starter — but his team-leading eight sacks in 2020 notwithstanding, he hasn’t been an impact player. Totaling just 15 sacks over that span is concerning, as is his knack for getting pushed around in the run game.
The second-year Jonathon Cooper started five games as a rookie last season and notched 2.5 sacks and 38 total tackles. While he flashed in a few games, as of right now, he isn’t ready for a starting role which is to be expected from a seventh-round pick. Cooper will also be returning from a finger injury and subsequent surgery heading into training camp.
Baron Browing is in the process of making the switch from off-ball linebacker to edge rusher. He’s very explosive and has solid coverage ability, so it will be interesting to see how those traits translate to his position change. He could be a reliable backup, but a full-time starter isn’t realistic at this stage in his burgeoning career as an edge defender.
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Rookie second-rounder Nik Bonitto provides the Broncos with speed off the edge. He had 19.5 sacks and one forced fumble in his college career at Oklahoma.
Bonitto will most likely be a push-rush specialist his rookie season, as his slender frame makes him a liability in the run game. Christopher Allen, an undrafted rookie out of Alabama, played only 19 games in college.
Allen missed his senior season with a fractured foot. He’s a dynamic player but as a UDFA, he’s a long shot at making the 53-man roster.
Denver has some decent talent behind Gregory and Chubb, and some of those depth options may see starter’s snaps in 2022. However, most of them cannot set the edge in the run game, which is crucial to supplementing the starters’ production.
Should the injury bug rear its head, the Broncos could be in for a rude awakening at rush linebacker.
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