Rookie Miller the quiet motor behind Broncos' recent success
And in other non-Tebow news from Denver ...
Rookie linebacker Von Miller's a keeper, and while the mania over Tim Tebow's play is the talk of the Rocky Mountain region, the Miller-led Broncos defense is the real reason why they've been able to come back late in scintillating games. And if the 5-5 Broncos are to stay in the AFC playoff race in the last six weeks, they'll need more of what Miller did against the Jets last week, starting Sunday in San Diego.
The transition from college pass-rusher to pro pass-rusher has eaten up some high draft picks in recent years. Aaron Curry, Jamaal Anderson, Aaron Maybin, Vernon Gholston and Derrick Morgan all either failed or are struggling mightily. But what's been eye-opening about Miller is his combo platter of speed and power. He leads all rookies with 9.5 sacks -- some from power moves, some from running around tackles -- and one against the Jets was a good example why the Broncos practically ran the card with his name to the draft podium last April when it was time to make the second overall pick.
If you watched the end of the Broncos' 17-13 victory, you saw Mark Sanchez set up to throw on a frenzied final New York drive, and you saw Miller lined up over the right tackle, Wayne Hunter. Miller weighs 243. Hunter's got Miller by 75 pounds; he's 318. At the snap of the ball, Hunter backpedaled to pass-block. No finesse from Miller, who ran hard and exploded into Hunter, knocking him backward to the ground. Sanchez had no chance. Miller smothered him for an eight-yard sack.
It was one of those moments when you look at a play and just gasp. Once or twice a game, Lawrence Taylor would recklessly spring into Washington tackle Joe Jacoby and try to knock his block off 25 years ago, and very occasionally it would work. It's one of those common moves by a rusher just to let the tackle know you'll be coming with power occasionally, and not just with speed around the edge or quickness on a stunt. But the suddenness, the ferocity ... and the fact that Hunter, an eight-year vet, got schooled by a rookie in his 10th NFL game ... it just all combined to be memorable.
"When you're both just standing there,'' Miller told me by phone from Denver, "it looks like weight means a lot. But when you're both moving, it really doesn't matter. When you get 'em off-balance, weight really doesn't count for anything. He was off-balance. I was fortunate, really. But that's just part of the game I play.''
What those who have watched Miller all season have seen is the speed, the power and the effort. "I'm going to attack and give relentless effort, fanatical effort,'' he said. "That's my formula, and I'm sticking to it. I try to get off the ball as fast as possible and react to whatever the offense is trying to do to me. I don't really have any premeditated moves.''
If Miller's accomplished all this so far -- 9.5 sacks, 48 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 3 passes defensed -- with no premeditated moves, imagine what he'll do when he's got some plans. He rushes now with a frenzied approach; maybe that will work for a career. John Randle and Kevin Greene played that way, and it took them far. But it's pretty exciting to see what Miller's going to become. Paired with Elvis Dumervil, there aren't many better bookend pass-rush tag-teams playing right now.
And so far, he's not unhappy about being in the monstrous Tebow shadow. "Tim's a rock star,'' Miller said.
That he is. But Miller's likely to be a bigger reason why Denver stays in contention -- if the Broncos can.
Three games, three points:
Good podcast this week, Week 11 of the pod, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and my weekly spot with Bob McGinn. The podcast is on
A couple of Goodell snippets:
On playing NFL games on days other than Sunday/Monday/Thursday: "I don't [see us expanding to other days of the week]. ... I think we like being special. I think we like having a day where you anticipate having football. I think when you have games every night of the week, as an example, it takes away from that uniqueness and that special nature of our game, which [is] event driven. So I don't see that.''
On moving the trade deadline back from mid-October: "I've always thought that trades are exciting in the NFL. I think our game is a little different than other sports in that teams aren't as reliant on trades, they build more through the draft. But it's exciting when you have a trade. It creates controversy, it creates a discussion among fans. I think the trading deadline is important in other sports. And I think the more we can put that kind of focus in football it's good.''
On whether he's spoken to NBA commissioner David Stern about the NBA's labor problems: "Yes, I speak to David Stern, as I do other commissioners, on a regular basis. ... I think I can only relay what I think was a critical point for us in our [negotiation], and the circumstances are always different. I think when litigation becomes so dominant, I think it obviously impacts on collective bargaining. And from what I've read -- and I only know from reports -- there has been no collective bargaining since the litigation really unfolded, 10 days or two weeks ago. That's unfortunate, because this will get solved through negotiation; it always does. And the parties need to be at the table. And our critical moment was when we had the principals sit face-to-face.''