2014 was a season of redemption for Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller. After a 2013 campaign that began with a six-game suspension and ended with a torn ACL, which rendered him a spectator in his team’s humiliating 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, Miller recaptured his brand of dominant edge play in 2014.
Miller played 926 defensive snaps in the regular season and with them, he notched 59 combined tackles, 14 sacks and a forced fumble. His strong performance against both the pass and the run earned him a +54.0 cumulative grade via Pro Football Focus, which ranked him just behind rookie Khalil Mack’s +55.3 and just ahead of Justin Houston’s +51.1, for the highest rated linebacker in football.
When you consider that Miller produced at that level after tearing his ACL in Week 16 of the previous season, it’s rather jaw-dropping and perhaps just as impressive as Adrian Peterson’s 2012 campaign, in which he rushed for 2,000+ yards, after tearing his ACL late in the previous year.
Again, Miller earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors, the third time in his four-year career for each achievement, respectively. The only season that he failed to gain dual end-of-year honors was his injury and suspension-plagued 2013 campaign.
At just 26 years old, Miller is hitting the prime of his career. He’ll play out the 2015 season on the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, which was optioned by the Broncos. Miller will earn $9.75M this upcoming season, making him the fourth-highest paid player on the roster, on an annual average value (AAV).
Miller has produced 49 sacks in just four seasons and although we’ve witnessed some truly transcendent performances from the former Texas A&M Aggie, fans could be in store for an even bigger impact from him in 2015.
Head coach Gary Kubiak had some high praise for Miller earlier this week and talked about how much he is looking forward to teaming Miller up with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and unleashing the beast.
“I’ve known Von for a long time,” Kubiak said at the annual Owners Meetings in Tempe, AZ. “Us [Texas A&M] Aggies stick together. Von’s ability to run, to get after the quarterback—it’s as good as there is in our business. You’re always looking for guys like that on the edge that are difference makers week-in-and-week-out, as far as rushing the passer, knocking the ball out—those types of things. I’m sitting here thinking about how hard he played in the Pro Bowl. I was so impressed about how hard he played in the Pro Bowl and how well he did.”
“We’re excited about Von," Kubiak continued. "You give [Defensive Coordinator] Wade [Phillips] an edge player—he’s done a lot of great things with them. He’s as good as you can have. He’ll obviously play on the ball. Last year he played off the ball a little bit more. He’ll play on the ball the majority of the time this year. [We are] looking forward to getting him going.”
In Phillips’ defense, Miller will be primarily tasked to penetrate the backfield, whether it’s in rushing the passer or in defending the run—the approach that best suits him. Last year, Jack Del Rio, the previous Broncos DC, drove Broncos Country mad by deploying Miller in coverage and in ways that didn’t play to his strong suits.
Miller held his own in coverage, earning a +3.1 grade in that category via PFF, but a coach’s job is scheme to his players’ strengths. Del Rio often failed in that regard and not just with Miller. One of the attributes that has made Wade Phillips a lasting and lauded defensive mind in the NFL is that he doesn’t forget that golden football rule.
DeMarcus Ware experienced the best year of his career in 2008 under Phillips’ coordination in Dallas. He notched 20 sacks on his way to first team All-Pro honors. This time around, Phillips gets the pleasure of coaching two of the best pass rushing artists in modern NFL history—led by Von Miller. The fifth-year pro is poised to “eat greedy” in 2015.
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