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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – This season is a lot of things for the Denver Broncos linebacker Von miller. He’s 32, the most-employed Broncos player with three seasons, and he’s in the final year of the six-year mega-deal he signed in July 2016, just over five months after earning the Super Bowl 50 MVP.
He has spent much of the offseason when asked, explaining how he is “at peace” with how he has handled things on and off the field. And when Miller is asked about his age these days, there is routinely a smile and a you-ask-me-about-my-age shakes his head.
“I’ve seen my picture with my shirt off,” Miller said. “I feel like it’s the same Von. I just think it’s a different mindset.”
There may be no better way to take the Broncos’ defensive temperature than to see how Miller is doing. If Miller is healthy, disruptive, and celebrating for sacks, life is usually pretty good. If not, not much usually happens when December rolls around.
Score one for happy, healthy and come-after-it Von Miller. He was one of the brightest spots in the Broncos’ season-opening win over the Giants with two sacks and three tackles for losses. Sunday was his first game with at least two sacks and at least three tackles for losses since the season opener in 2018.
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“It was probably important for him to just get something like this going,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said.
“It’s good to see his face in trouble again when we break it down and all,” linebacker Josey Jewell said. “He’s definitely a great player. It’s just fun to see him go out there and kick people’s butt.”
Miller missed the 2020 season with an ankle injury and spent much of the 2019 season battling his frustrations with the team’s matches on the field.
While the Broncos await the return of the Miller -Bradley Chubb combination in defense – Chubb missed the opening with an ankle injury and the two have not played together in a regular season match since week 4 of 2019 – Miller’s week 1 launch into the season bodes well .
Aside from a franchise quarterback, few elite players have consistently blossomed after their 30th birthday in the NFL as the game’s best pass rushers to date. Bruce Smith had five double-digit sack seasons after turning 32, Reggie White had 16 sacks at 37, Chris Doleman had 15 sacks at 37 and Michael Strahan had 22.5 sacks at 30 to go with 18.5 sacks at 32.
So when Miller slammed Giants rookie receiver Kadarius Toney to the ground for a 6-yard loss just under a minute into Sunday’s game – the kind of game he’s played at his best – he’s signaling he’s back.
“Sometimes players feel like him about it and it makes them go,” Fangio said. “They feel like, ‘Hey, I’ve done one play, and I can go and do another one at a time.’ And I also think it’s important for guys like him when they go through a game and they haven’t had one of them, they start to push a little bit and get discouraged. “
For the Broncos, who played with the lead only 27.9% of the time last season and did not even have the lead in six of their games, Sunday’s opening provided the translucent formula Miller and the rest of their rushers have to line up numbers. Time will tell if he can keep going.
“It was a long way to get here by me personally,” Miller said, “but when you get here, you really do not think about all this. You just think about victories and the next game, for sure.”