Entering the 2020 season, Von Miller and the Denver Broncos had high hopes. Miller had put in so much work in the offseason and looked primed to rebound from a disappointing eight-sack 2019 campaign.
Unfortunately, the eight-time Pro Bowler suffered a devastating injury when he dislocated his peroneal tendon (ankle) on the last play of practice. It was an injury that in a best-case scenario takes three months to recover from, but in most cases, it's a six-month timetable.
Miller could have returned late last season if the team was in playoff contention, but that dream soon faded, as the Broncos continued to suffer injury after injury and played themselves out of the postseason hunt.
On the doorstep of the 2021 season, Miller is looking to get back into football form.
"It's good for me to dust the cobwebs off and just get back into playing football," Miller said during OTAs. "Every rep out there I needed, whether it's conditioning or just getting back in the speed of playing football."
Miller will build on the momentum from OTAs going into training camp, the preseason, and the long-awaited season-opener against the New York Giants. After a relative down year, followed by missing an entire season, what is the best and worst-case scenario for Miller in 2021?
Let's dive in.
Miller is one of the league's most physically gifted players but is not getting any younger as he enters his 11th season at the ripe football age of 32. He is a player who relies on his athleticism to dominate the man standing across from him as he makes his way to the quarterback.
However, if Miller cannot reclaim the explosiveness he once had, the Super Bowl 50 MVP Broncos fans once knew may be a thing of the past. The location of his injury is the most concerning, as edge rushers attack from the edge of the formation, putting a tremendous amount of strain on the tendons in the ankle as the defender pushes off and drives toward the quarterback.
With Miller on the wrong side of 30, the Broncos can only hope he returns to his prior form. Otherwise, his eight-sack season may decline even more in 2021.
Miller is looking to pick up where he left off in the 2019 offseason. He was filled with the excitement of playing in Vic Fangio's system and learning from the defensive czar.
"I got a great coach here, one of the best coaches I've ever had in my life," Miller told NBC's Peter King back in 2019. "We have had great leadership here, but he is an outside linebacker guy. He has coached a lot of the great ones. I want to be his greatest, his greatest product yet."
Under the guidance of a legendary defensive mind and paired with Bradley Chubb who is one year removed from his ACL tear, Miller is primed to have another vintage season. Together, the duo has the ability to have 30 sacks combined as evidenced by the 26.5 the pass-rush tandem totaled together in 2018.
Miller is also fortunate enough to have Malik Reed easing the pressure and lightening his workload, allowing him to ease back onto the field without the team suffering a dramatic decline in production whenever he is on the sideline.
If Miller is allowed to ease back onto the field, he can better evaluate where he is physically and how hard he can push himself — allowing him to hit his stride at the most opportune time of the year. He has put in all the work that can be asked of him and his determination is stronger than ever.
If he can stay healthy, look for Miller to have one of the most impactful seasons of his career.
Follow Kenneth on Twitter @KennethMHH.
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