Yep, the Broncos’ Von Miller is the best defensive player in football

3 min. read
Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller (58) strip sacks Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) during fourth quarter action in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, February 7, 2016. Photo by Ben Hays.

Von Miller already has five sacks this year. (Photo by Ben Hays/Denver Broncos)

This summer, Von Miller received the richest contract ever for a defensive player when he signed for six years and $70 million guaranteed. The deal was deserved. In the Broncos’ Super Bowl run, Miller recorded five sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception against three of the best quarterbacks in football: Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Cam Newton.

It wouldn’t have been all that surprising if Miller started the 2016-17 season a little sluggish. Piles of money can lead to complacency; it’s just human nature. Plus, Miller seems to be the sort of guy who enjoys football but is not consumed by it like, say, the Texans’ J.J. Watt, who once famously found a way to get to Houston's practice facility despite a freaking flood.

So far this season, however, Miller’s put to rest any worries about a hangover. The Broncos’ star linebacker leads the NFL in sacks (five) and has already forced a fumble. Three games in, his performance has matched what his new contract says he should be: The best defensive player in football.

If you wanted to distill Miller’s hot start down to a single highlight, you’d probably choose his strip-sack of Andrew Luck in Denver’s Week 2 win over Indianapolis. The Colts had the ball on their own 25 with a little less than 2 minutes remaining. They needed a touchdown. Here’s what the play looked like before the snap. That’s Miller circled in red.

The closest Colt to Miller is tight end Dwayne Allen (No. 83). Surely he’ll help Colts right tackle Joe Reitz block Miller, right? Nope.

Allen immediately heads upfield to run a route. That leaves Reitz on an island with the best pass rusher in the game. Miller uses his speed to go around him, drill Luck and force the fumble, which Ray scooped up and scored to seal Denver’s win.

The play prompted former NFL defensive end Stephen White, who now blogs for SB Nation, to offer some advice.

Pro tip: If you find yourself in a close game with the Denver Broncos, late in the fourth quarter and your offense is on the field and they have a chance to either tie or take the lead, for goodness sake, find a way to chip Von Miller!!!

A “chip” occurs when an offensive player helps his fellow offensive linemen out by bumping a pass rusher on his way toward running a route downfield.

Miller’s impact is most obvious in snippets like his strip-sack against the Colts. He also changes games in subtler ways.

Watch here how he zooms by Bengals' right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and flushes Andy Dalton out of the pocket. Dalton sees Miller closing in and tries to scramble, but Shane Ray is right there to clean it up.

Really, this play is Miller’s doing. All Ray had to do was wrap Dalton up. But Ray is the one who gets the sack on the stat sheet. This is the beauty of Miller’s game: Not only is he creating opportunities for himself to take down QBs, he’s doing so for others.

Miller’s on a tear right now. In his last six games, he’s racked up 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception. This season, he’s got more sacks than 12 — 12!!!! — different NFL teams. This is one of the best runs a pass rusher has ever experienced. Soak it up while you can.

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