He's been compared to Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas and is one of the league's best young pass-rushers, yet he's surprisingly not mentioned enough in the same breath with the league's best sack artists.
He is Von Miller, outside linebacker and sack extraordinaire of the Denver Broncos. Miller has compiled 17.5 sacks this season, good for third best in the NFL only behind Houston Texans' J.J. Watt and the San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith.
Up to this point of the regular season, it feels like Miller hasn't gotten enough praise for the work he's done with the Broncos. He hasn't received enough fanfare for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
The common distinction that most voters and fans will point to is sack differential. Miller's 17.5 are three shy of Watt and two of Smith, but he's also been asked to do more than the two. He has been asked to drop in coverage in the Broncos' base 4-3, Cover 4 (Quarters) scheme.
He operates as a traditional outside linebacker in the Broncos' scheme, often seeing his snap aligned in a two-point stance at the line of scrimmage and across tight ends. It is believed that this alignment and use of Miller is best because it utilizes his natural talents of athleticism—something he had experience with during his collegiate days at Texas A&M while working in a 3-4 defense.
Miller is still learning the ins-and-outs of playing in coverage, particularly zone defense, but has shown improvement over the course of the season, including catching his first career interception. While he has seen marked improvement in coverage, it is still his ferocious pass rushing ability that stands out.
He possesses a rare combination of flexibility, speed and power that enables him to destroy the best and worst offensive tackles in the league. Typically a pass-rusher's strength is power that allows them to jolt blockers or great speed that's used to set up inside moves. However, Miller has both along with great flexibility and poses all kinds of challenges, as Cleveland Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz stated via Cleveland.com:
He's probably the best pure athlete in terms of speed and change of direction and athleticism. You set too wide, he'll get inside of you at the snap of a finger. You try to take that away, and he'll beat you on the corner. He's able to do everything, which gives you a lot of challenges.
Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 13, Miller recorded a strip-sack on quarterback Josh Freeman while displaying exquisite pass-rushing prowess. He was lined up at his usual stand-up, five technique over right tackle Demar Dotson.
Dotson, who is 6'9", was bound to have troubles with the much shorter and athletic Miller. When the ball snapped, Miller quickly moved forward and dipped his shoulder to turn the corner against the Bucs blocker.
When he did turn the corner, he gave little room for Dotson to force him wide of Freeman because he had his body turned away from the blocker. He only gave up his inside shoulder, which was not enough surface area for Dotson to get his hands on him.
Because of Miller's quickness and flexibility, he got around Dotson and violently brought down Freeman with a quick closing burst and a stretch of his arms.
While this was an impressive display of Miller's abilities, it was not as great as his in Week 14 against the Oakland Raiders and right tackle Khalif Barnes.
Lined up at the nine-technique just outside tight end Brandon Myers on 3rd-and-6, Miller was ready to get after quarterback Carson Palmer. He seemed antsy before the snap, quickly moving his feet and waiting to unleash the beast within him.
Once Carson Palmer yelled for the football to be snapped, Miller was off to the races. Myers did not stay in to block, leaving Barnes one-on-one with Miller. Barnes is not the most fleet of foot in pass blocking and has always struggled with speed, which was a strength of Miller's.
Miller quickly closed in on Barnes, and then did what all coaches look for in pass-rushers: smoothly sunk his near shoulder and bent around the corner. It was a great display of flexibility and athleticism on the young pass-rusher's behalf; he gave even less surface area for Barnes to work with than he did against Demar Dotson.
He then bent his knees, sunk his hips even further and beat Barnes around the corner as he caved Palmer's pocket. An explosive final burst saw Palmer taken down for the sack, the lone one of the game for Miller and his 16th on the season.
Watching Von Miller on Sundays is a treat because of his immense talent. In an age when exaggerations abound, the comparisons of Miller to Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas are legitimate.
He has the speed, power and flexibility that both Taylor and Thomas had as well as the athleticism and overall game-changing talent. Miller is everything that the Broncos had hoped for when they drafted him No. 2 overall, and he's only getting started.
According to the Denver Post, Miller is "only the third NFL player since the start of the 1994 season to produce at least 15 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles in the same season."
It's scary to think what kind of player Von Miller could be three years from now when he's 26 years old and what is presumed to be the prime of his career.
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