Five Areas Von Miller Can Improve To Match The Great Lawrence Taylor

Von Miller is the most feared edge rusher in the modern NFL. But what does he have to do in order to match arguably the best defensive player in NFL history—Lawrence Taylor?

With the contract negotiations over and Von Miller on the roster, the league has moved on to other business.  Among them, Willie McGinest asked a fine question.

Can J.J. Watt ever reach Lawrence Taylor’s mass of awards? McGinest thinks that he can, but he laid out five solid milestones that Watt will have to absorb and overcome to get there.

Given the skill that Von Miller has shown (and the contract that he just received), every one of these applies just as much to him. Von has the ability to become substantially better than he is now. already appointed him the top edge rusher in the league, for what that’s worth. If you’re a quarterback, that’s got to bring up some queasy feelings. If you’re a Denver Broncos fan, it ought to bring a smile to your face. Can Von reach LT’s level?

I believe that he can—but he’ll have to show his dedication to a level of consistency that he’s been just below. McGinest’s rules are a great start toward turning Von’s own stellar abilities up another notch.

Denver has few losses from last season, had an enviable draft, and has every reason to improve on their performance from last year. Although reverting to the mean is a common thing, I believe that Denver’s coaching, attitude and elite depth can help both Von and the team to set new records in the league.

Here are McGinest's’s rules for reaching LT’s level.

1. Maintain Good Health

This one isn’t as obvious as it might be. Of course he needs to. The question is, how?

A lot of players don’t do all the little things to keep their bodies and their attitudes as strong as they can be. Von will need to use nutrition, massage, joint manipulation, acupuncture (as available), stretching, kinesiology and the hot and cold tubs, just to name a few, in order to maintain or develop his incredible skills.

Many players also benefit for using sports psychology to increase their mental edge when out on the field. It’s an excellent tool. There’s no reason to not take advantage of everything at your disposal.

2. Improve His Technique As He Ages

Many of the greats, from Michael Jordan to Joe Montana, talked about how as their body’s age, they had to make up for that with constantly improving their technique. Denver has this situation personified with OLB DeMarcus Ware.

Despite his recurring back issues, during the Super Bowl he came around the corner bent as low as Von Miller. He’d been working on it as part of resolving last season’s back issues.

Ware also uses martial arts in the offseason to improve his speed, hand fighting skills, balance and leverage. Dancing with the Stars is a lot of fun, but it’s not exactly preparation for training camp. The best of the best stay with their program year-round.

3. Become The League MVP

This is the most difficult of the five. The modern NFL is a quarterback’s league.

They get the most airtime on the football shows. They get the most press in the media. But in 1986, Lawrence Taylor managed to win that award—he’d terrorized every QB he went up against.

With players like Aaron Rodgers and his 38-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio, it’s a high aerie to aim for. Still, it’s one thing that Von should strive for.

He has the skills to achieve it and no one will ever be able to argue his credentials again if he does.

4. Get Help From Offense

Not unlike the Broncos and their team situation last season, Von can be effective either way. Denver’s defense was, but more offense might have led to an even better record.

Heating up Denver’s offense will make the opponent one-dimensional and give Von a chance to tee off even more on the QBs. Just ask anyone on Denver’s front seven. They made a Super Bowl win out of using that approach. With an improved offense, they can take some weight off the D and increase their already-exceptional advantage.

Demaryius Thomas is back (with his personal issues behind him), we’re going with the Gary Kubiak variation of the West Coast Offense, we’ve got a fullback who’s going to impress people, and three tight ends who can block and receive.

Oh, and Devontae Booker looks like a heck of a pick. I’m looking forward to seeing what the offense can do for Denver this year.

5. Be A Game Changer Deep In The Playoffs

Let’s face it. Having ‘Super Bowl MVP’ on your resume pushes you into stratospheric realms in the record books. Von just rode his into a record-breaking contract.

He got better in the playoffs than he was during the year. While I’d cheerfully agree that this is the time to really shine, Von has the skill to perform at that level all season.

If he does, two things will happen. Denver will spend a lot of time deep in the playoffs, and no one will ever question Miller’s exceptional skills again.

Von has shown game after game that he’s capable of taking over a quarter or a half, often at a key point. What remains to be seen is whether he can take that level of skill, effort and technique into an all-season affair. 

After a long contract struggle, what better way to show that he’s ‘all in’ as a player than to cut, twist, spin, rip and swim his way into competition to beat the current historic leader of edge rushing?

Without question, Miller has the skill to achieve it. Missing OTAs, since they’re doing the new scheme’s install, might slow him some.

But not long after the end of training camp, Von should be back to terrorizing QBs at his old rate—or quite a bit faster.

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Doc Bear is a Featured Columnist for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @DocBearOMD.

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