CHICAGO — Bradley Chubb learned this past week it’s one thing to move across the country on a moment’s notice, another thing to make the trek across the Dolphins’ locker room.
Two days had passed since the Dolphins made their blockbuster trade for the edge rusher, yet Chubb kept putting off one piece of business: How, exactly, was he going to make peace with Tyreek Hill?
“It’s still a little sensitive subject for me,” Chubb said.
It’s Tua time:Dolphins’ trspande of lspanst first-round drspanft pick spespanks of belief in Tuspan Tspangovspanilospan | Schspand
Chubb has risks:Go spanhespand spannd celebrspante Dolphins trspanding for Brspandley Chubb (but don’t ignore risks) | Hspanbib
Contract extension:Brspandley Chubb gets contrspanct extension, begins settling in with Dolphins spanmid ‘whirlwind’
While with the Denver Broncos, Chubb faced the division rival Kansas City Chiefs six times. Lost all six. During the offseason he said 2022 would be his revenge tour. He’s an edge rusher and Hill is a receiver, meaning the odds of them meeting on the football field were always about the same as them meeting over a cup of tea.
Still … “I used to hate that dude, man,” Chubb said. “Not going to lie to you.”
The use of past tense and the grin on his face said how much Chubb was appreciating the irony of these past several months — how Hill was obtained in a huge trade by the Dolphins. And now it was Chubb, who is expected to make his Dolphins debut Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
They share more than a locker room, more than the stiff price the Dolphins paid for them, which can be measured in dollars and draft capital. Expectations also are part of their deals. It’s no coincidence that as Chubb began to settle in, the Dolphins made no effort to dial down a buzz higher than we’ve witnessed in ages. Tua Tagovailoa himself said the Dolphins are not afraid to blurt out the words Super Bowl.
For that to happen, Bradley Chubb needs to be Tyreek Hill. Not literally, naturally. But think about what Hill and Jaylen Waddle have been able to accomplish through these first eight games for the Dolphins (5-3). With both in the top five among NFL receivers, they’re the top tandem in the league.
Now consider how good Miami’s defense could be if — — Chubb, 26, and Jaelan Phillips, 23, can be the kind of threats bulling their way up the field that Hill and Waddle are racing down the field.
In a league revolving around passing, one pair lets the quarterback fire away at will. The other dares him to.
“A beautiful sight to see” is how Chubb described tape he watched of Phillips and the rest of the Dolphins’ pass rush earlier this season. It’s no secret that pass rush isn’t what it was just a season ago — hence, this trade. Now, it adds Chubb, who did his best work in 2018 as a bookend to Von Miller.
The Dolphins hope this pair can approach that one.
“I know all the things that Jaelan does well with his length, his size,” Chubb said. “He’s one of the biggest humans I’ve seen, seeing him face to face. And I get to practice every day with him. It’s going to be a great opportunity. I know he brings that power. He brings that finesse. He does a great job of bringing both so I know we can match each other with that.”
Phillips was getting a massage when the trade news broke.
“So I’m like groggy already and I see it,” Phillips said. “I’m like, ‘Is this real?’ ”
Phillips called it a “marquee trade.” He compared it to Hill’s arrival.
“It just goes to show they’re trying to get as many pieces here so we can have as successful of a team as possible,” Phillips said. “So having these big trades like that, it definitely is a cool look.”
Christian Wilkins: Adding Chubb inspires us all to work even harder
Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said the additions of Hill, offensive tackle Terron Armstead and now Chubb have a ripple effect, and not just on Sundays.
“It changes your mindset now at practice when you’re out there working, when you could be sitting down doing nothing,” Wilkins said. “You’re like, ’No, now’s the time.’ You’ve got to kind of change your mindset and why wait? Why let the opportunities pass by?”
To twist a favorite saying of coach Mike McDaniel, what the Dolphins now view as opportunity, opponents see as adversity. Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith ran through a list of questions coaches must ask themselves when constructing a game plan to deal with Chubb and Phillips:
“What are the pressures that you’re seeing?” Smith said. “How are you going to have to handle the pressures? Then after that you’re looking at, all right, how do they deploy the rushers? How do we try to minimize their strengths? Are you getting guys on the line of scrimmage to affect their speed rush? Are you getting guys coming out of the backfield that chip as they go? What do they do well and how do they affect it? And is that going to be a challenge for you?”
Smith recalled serving as an assistant on the Chargers last season when Los Angeles was preparing to play Cleveland. Rookie offensive tackle Rashawn Slater said he didn’t want to chip edge rusher Myles Garrett.
“You’re screwing me up,” Slater told Smith, adding he needed to be where “I can see where he is so I can block him.”
Smith: “OK, bro. Whatever you say, man. Whatever you want.”
Garrett had a sack that day but the Chargers won 47-42. Smith said it ultimately comes down to how offenses can find help to counter what pass rushers do best.
Terron Armstead breaks down Bradley Chubb’s game
What does Chubb do best? That question was posed to Armstead, who was with the Saints when he studied Chubb on tape for an upcoming assignment that never materialized thanks to COVID.
“It’s a small pool of guys that can go win consistently one on one battles,” Armstead said. “And those guys are the ones that get the notoriety, get the accolades, get the contract. He’s one of those. So he has a great balance of speed, power and hand combinations that make him really dangerous. A lot of guys specialize in one — speed rusher or power rusher — but he’s one of a few that has a great balance of multiple things.
“When I was studying him, trying to figure out what I was looking to take away, he’s a guy that’s comfortable going inside, comfortable playing outside, being on the edge and comfortable running down the middle.”
That scouting report was dead-on, according to Chubb himself.
“When it comes to rushing the quarterback, I like to do a little bit of everything,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got a good combination of size and speed so I can use my power, I can use the finesse, whatever the situation comes to.”
It seems like light years since the ‘Tank for Tua’ season of 2019
Chubb, Hill and Armstead are three recent additions by general manager Chris Grier who have “Pro Bowl” on their resumes. It’s hoped that Chubb is the final piece of the rebuild.
Chubb was introduced to the South Florida media on the three-year anniversary of a Dolphins win over the Jets that ended a miserable 0-7 start during the “Tank for Tua” season. It was a season in which the Dolphins shuffled on and off their roster a massive 86 players, some starting days after being signed off the street. Instead of Taco Charlton, Julie’N Davenport and Aqib Talib (who never actually reported here), the Dolphins now are adding players worth a hundred million dollars.
“I’m happy to see that the GM and the head coach are very invested in this team,” Hill said. “They really understand that every team has a window, and they see that the window is now for this team.”
While Chubb acknowledged he might be eager to show he’s worth his five-year, $110 million extension, he’s not the only one with a greater sense of urgency.
“The sky’s the limit because everybody in this organization, in this building, cares, and they understand that to play championship football, you’ve got to go the extra mile,” Chubb said.
Or a few extra feet. What about that matter of the peace treaty with Hill? Chubb said he didn’t actually “hate that dude” because of the person he is. What, then?
“Just because of the team he was on and all the things he did against us and stuff like that,” Chubb said. “But now I’m happy I’m on the same sideline as him. I’m going to level him up every time he throws out the peace sign and I’m going to do it, too.
“It’s going to be a good time. I’m excited.”
Dolphins at Bears
1 p.m., CBS