Remember when Von Miller was one of the scariest linebackers, if not defenders, in the NFL?
The Denver Broncos didn’t have that Miller last season, and their defense suffered because of it.
Before last season’s hot mess, Miller was a player opposing teams had to scout and plan for. He was the player quarterbacks were pointing to before the snap. Miller was coming full speed, and no one could stop him.
This hit on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton sums up the force Miller played with during his first two seasons.
A suspension, some traffic tickets, an arrest and a knee injury derailed Miller’s year. He didn’t play much at all and didn’t look like the same player on the field. Some of that was due to his “muscle” gain, but it was also the fact that Miller just wasn’t playing very much. He was not up to game speed at all.
At OTAs, Miller looked to be back around the weight he played at during his first two seasons, and many have reported that he seems to have the care-free attitude he showed off back in the day. Miller is poised to be back, and every indication is that he will be.
How was Miller so dominant in his first two seasons? He, of course, is a freak athlete with a knack for rushing the passer. But he also had a tag team partner on the other side of the formation in Elvis Dumervil. Teams could not just scheme for Miller. Dumervil was just as scary. Every snap was a race to the quarterback.
Dumervil is long gone after “FaxGate,” and last season, his loss showed. Shaun Phillips had a fine season but is not nearly the player that Dumervil was. Miller needs someone to take some of the double teams off of him.
The Broncos knew they had to make a move to improve their pass rush, and free-agent DeMarcus Ware, who joined the Broncos just one day after being cut by the Cowboys, was the perfect solution. Miller was able to watch Ware wreck havoc on quarterbacks while at Texas A&M, even modeling parts of his game after the future Hall of Famer. Now, the two are getting the chance to play on the same team. They seem to be happy, but their opponents may beg to differ.
The only thing that could slow either of them down is injuries. Miller is still not fully recovered from his knee surgery but plans to be back by the opener in September. Ware is coming off elbow problems that limited his production last season but has said he is close to 100 percent.
The Broncos defense is better with Miller on the field. There is no debating that. More importantly, Denver needs the defense to be better if it finally wants to win the Super Bowl. Just getting there won’t cut it. Either the Broncos win or the season will be considered a failure in Denver.
All the signs add up to Miller being back to his old self: He is back at a lighter weight, he has a big-time pass rusher on the other side and the Broncos secondary should be better with the additions of Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward. Remember that during Miller’s best season, in 2012, the Broncos had a top-five rated defense with a strong secondary.
Miller also has some motivation to get a big pay day. If he performs and stays out of trouble this season, the Broncos will be looking to extend him.
Despite his problems, Miller is still a key cog in Denver’s machine. And if he is on a mission to get back to the top, it could lead to big things for the Broncos.
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