Bradley Chubb still looking for 'groove' in return from ACL surgery

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb had ACL surgery just slightly less than a year ago. He's still embroiled in a somewhat elusive pursuit of 100% health, but with alpha defender Von Miller on injured reserve, he's also the team's most accomplished edge rusher remaining.

Chubb played a bit more than most anybody expected in the Week 1 loss to the Tennessee Titans -- 59 of the defense's 81 snaps (73%) -- and that is a step in the right direction.

"The knee felt good," Chubb said. "It felt good the whole time. It feels good now. That's for sure a positive."

But when Chubb was asked how he thought he played on those snaps -- zero tackles, zero sacks and two quarterback hits during the 16-14 loss -- he was quick to add: "Not very effective -- I feel like I was just getting into the groove of things. I wish I could have made more plays. At the end of the day, I just can't force things. I have to let it come to me and just try and make as many plays as I can this week."

Broncos coach Vic Fangio has already spoken to Chubb on several occasions, before and especially after Miller's injury, about not feeling pressure to push too hard or play too much if he doesn't feel well. The Broncos did shut down Chubb for the final week of training camp because the third-year linebacker didn't feel quite right in a stadium practice.

Chubb flashed on a selection of snaps against the Titans, especially early in the game, but by game's end it was Jeremiah Attaochu who had the Broncos' only sack of Ryan Tannehill.

"I was encouraged by his play," Fangio said. "I think he was too. He's not where he was, but he's getting there, and I think he'll get there quickly."

In the coverage-pressure equation on defense, the Broncos are already in a tough spot. They might feel like they have to blitz more to make up for Miller's absence, but to do that they will risk more one-on-one matchups in a secondary that will have two rookies in the nickel package -- Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey -- until A.J. Bouye returns from a shoulder injury.

Against the Titans, Fangio elected to change things up, dropping a defensive end in coverage at times to add inside linebacker Alexander Johnson or others to the rush. But overall the Broncos rushed four 80% of the time, 84% of the time in the second half after Bouye had left the game.

"That's a balance you have to decide each and every week regardless of who you have in the secondary," Fangio said. "With a guy like [Steelers quarterback Ben] Roethlisberger who's experienced and seen it all, we'll have to have a good mix. The youth is part of it, but not the big part."

Chubb's progress will certainly factor into that decision and something the Broncos will have to adjust to as well. Monday's game was the first time the Broncos have had Chubb on the field with the defense in any fashion since Week 4 last season.

"I just have to go out there and play football," Chubb said. "... I just can't put a day or a time on when I'm going to feel 100%. I'm feeling pretty good now, and I'm going to go out there and continue to do what I've been doing."