ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—After a day off, the Denver Broncos returned to the practice field today at UCHealth Training Center. Coming off a 22-20 win in Seattle, wherein the Broncos dominated defensively in Gary Kubiak's first game as head coach, the team will now turn their attention toward getting better in training camp and preparing to take on the Houston Texans on Saturday.
“You all ask me this every year," Miller said today. "J.J., he's an awesome talent. He's incredible, a once in a lifetime player, but I'm a once in a lifetime player, too. I feel like I go out there and I can play with the best of them. It's a lot of talk before the season. Luckily, I have a season coming up and I get to lay it all out there and show everybody the type of Von that I can be. I want it to be about me this season. That's the way I'm going about it—me and the Broncos. That's where my mindset is at.”
If Friday night's exhibition game in Seattle was any indication, Miller is poised to have his best season as a pro. And that's saying something for a guy who was named the 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year—the same year Watt came out—and broke the Broncos single-season sack record in 2012, with 18.5.
Miller finished second to Watt that year in voting for Defensive Player of the Year. If Miller wants that honor for himself, he'll have to knock the king off the hill, as Watt enters 2015 as the reigning DPoY.
Playing in a contract year, Miller certainly doesn't lack for motivation. He's arguably in the best shape of his career and playing outside linebacker in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme—a scheme that has seen some of the most elite defenders in the NFL produce career numbers, like DeMarcus Ware's 2008 20-sack season and Watt's 2012 20.5-sack campaign—Miller will be unleashed to do his thing.
If you're looking for a testimonial close to home on Phillips' scheme, Friday night's performance from the Broncos defensive unit might do. They only allowed 181 total yards, forced two turnovers, racked up seven sacks, hit the QB 13 times and made 12 total stops behind the line of scrimmage (including sacks). Yeah, it was a preseason game. But Seattle has one of the deepest rosters in the league.
In the Seahawks second play from scrimmage on Friday night, Miller obliterated right tackle Justin Britt on his way to a strip-sack on Russell Wilson, with Todd Davis recovering the fumble. Miller's speed off the snap, the elite ability to bend around the corner, and his violent closing burst were all on full display.
It's early. Miller and the Broncos are still a good month away from games that count. But recently released from the NFL's drug program, and the ever-present axe that hovered over his neck for two years, Miller is now unburdened. All things considered, he truly is poised to make 2015 about him and it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that he might finally take the DPoY award for himself.
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Animated images via NFL Game Pass.