Another week, another absolutely dominating performance by outside linebacker Von Miller. Turning in an eye-popping stat line with seven solo tackles—including two for a loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles—Miller has proven that he is one of the most effective and feared all-around players in the NFL.
After being selected No. 2 overall in the 2011 NFL draft, Miller has quieted any analysts who thought that Marcell Dareus should have been the pick, given the glaring hole in the center of the Denver defense at the time.
"Gloom," as he is called as the other bookend pass-rusher to Elvis Dumervil's "Doom," is having one of the most prominent all-around defensive seasons in history. He leads the NFL with 13 sacks through 10 games, eclipsing the 11.5 he tallied in his first season, in which he won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
He also leads the league in tackles for a loss with 23, has forced four fumbles, has 46 total tackles and one pass defended. This means that half of his tackles are for a loss, showing that he consistently blows up plays in the backfield on both runs and passes.
However, anyone who watches Miller week in and week out knows that his abilities to change a game travel way beyond statistics. He makes solid plays that can't be tracked by any statistician. It has been proven more and more that just the threat of Miller rushing the quarterback forces them to release passes too quickly and play jittery, while remaining a potential sitting duck in the pocket.
Just watch tape of Philip Rivers in yesterday's game. With Miller constantly breathing down his neck, Rivers hurried passes, made bad decisions and never seemed to get comfortable, as he struggled mightily throughout the game.
Also, if you watch the pick-six by Tony Carter against Cam Newton, you will see the type of plays that Von Miller makes that never show up on a stat sheet, as he forced Newton into the ill-advised throw. He has flat-out dominated several games this season and looks like the second coming of Derrick Thomas, who is his idol.
Miller has pulled neck and neck with Houston's J.J. Watt for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. While Miller leads in sacks and tackles for a loss, Watt has a sizable lead in passes defended with 11. Their tackles totals are nearly identical, making the race for the heralded award tight heading into the last six weeks of the season (some have mentioned Charles Tillman of the Bears, but as of right now, he's one step below Watt and Miller).
However, due to the momentum and remaining schedule for both players, Miller has the inside track at the award. While Watt set the world on fire to start the season, he has slowed as of late, having only two sacks in his last four games. Miller, by comparison, has come on like gangbusters in that same span of time, as he has seven sacks, including two games with three sacks.
Miller's momentum could not have come at a better time, as Denver's schedule down the stretch gives them two games against Kansas City, one against Oakland and one against Cleveland. These are games in which they figure to have a sizable lead, allowing Von to pin his ears back and harass the quarterback as they try to play catchup.
Watt's schedule down the stretch is much tougher, playing New England once and Indy twice, plus tough matchups against Minnesota and Detroit. He seems to have been affected greatly by the loss of Brian Cushing, and the Texans defense looked anything but dominant in yesterday's overtime win against the pedestrian Jacksonville Jaguars. Watt has also yet to force a fumble this season, which may be the most important statistic for a pass-rusher.
In the end, Miller should lead the league in sacks and tackles for a loss, while forcing a lot more fumbles than Watt, making him a clear winner for the Defensive Player of the Year award, while leading the Broncos defense to relevance once again. Something tells me this won't be the last time he wins the award in what looks to be a long and successful career.