DENVER (CBS4)- The Denver Broncos will have quite a 1-2 pass-rushing punch as they try to climb back into the playoff picture after a five-year drought.
The Broncos selected Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, the premier pass-rusher in this year’s draft, with the second overall pick Thursday night to help fix the league’s leakiest defense.
They’ll team the Aggies’ athletic playmaker with 2009 NFL sacks king Elvis Dumervil, who missed all of last season with a torn chest muscle a year after leading the league with 17 sacks.
“Oh man. I know a lot about Elvis,” Miller said. “When I was in high school, it was people saying that it was because of Elvis Dumervil, who opened it up for smaller guys to come off the edge. I know a lot about Elvis Dumervil and I’m excited that he’s back, injury-free. I’m glad to be a teammate.”
John Elway gushed over Miller leading up to the draft, saying the dominant senior is “a guy that when you turn on the film, you don’t even have to know what number he is. … He’s a guy that’s all over the field.”
And they’ll plan to play him all over in Denver’s defense and on every down if they can.
“It’s crucial in this league to be able to rush the passer and Von adds that dimension to our defense,” new coach John Fox said. “He’s also able to drop back into pass coverage. There’s no doubt his versatility is going to make us a better football team.”
Coming off the worst season in their 51-year history, the Broncos’ top priority is fixing a defense that gave up a whopping 471 points last year.
The second selection was the highest in team history following a 4-12 debacle that cost Josh McDaniels his job as coach and de facto general manager and led to a front office shake-up. Elway was brought in as chief of football operations and he hired Fox as coach and empowered general manager Brian Xanders to help rebuild the Broncos following McDaniels’ 22-month reign of error.
Miller is the third Aggies player selected with the second overall pick, joining linebacker Quentin Coryatt of the Indianapolis Colts in 1992 and running back John David Crow of the Chicago Cardinals in 1958. Elway said the only question mark on Miller was whether he could cover NFL running backs and tight ends on early downs.
“I’ve always covered running backs, tight ends, and I’ve always dropped back into coverage,” Miller said. “It was just that my role with the Texas A&M team was to get after the quarterback when they need me. On third downs, I was always in a rush. If you put on the film, I think I showed quite a bit that I can drop back in coverage and cover a slot receiver, cover the No. 1 receiver, and get on those running backs.”
Like Dumervil, who is moving back to defensive end in Fox’s 4-3 defensive alignment after playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme the last two seasons, Miller will be making an adjustment.
Miller played outside linebacker in the 3-4 in college but said he’s eager to switch to the 4-3 and even put his hand on the ground as a defensive end if need be.
“I think I will adjust pretty well. At the end of the day, when the ball is snapped, it’s all about shedding blocks and making tackles,” Miller said. “When I get there, I’m going to be extremely excited, extremely anxious to go play football.”
That’s why Miller is suing the league to do so. He’s a plaintiff in the antitrust lawsuit players filed to block the lockout. After he was selected, he strode across the stage with tears in his eyes and hugged Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I’ve never had anything against Roger Goodell. I just want to make sure football continues to get played. When I walked across the stage, I was meeting the commissioner, that was it. The whole reason why I got into this whole thing was not because of notoriety, not because of publicity. I got into this thing to represent the guys who came before me and broke their backs. I wanted to make sure football continues to get played.”
And the players continue to get paid.
Depending on what happens with the league’s labor impasse, Miller could step in and topple Dumervil’s five-year, $58 million contract before he ever plays his first NFL down. Dumervil’s deal, which he signed last summer shortly before getting hurt, included $43 million in guarantees against injury, a record for a player at his position.
Without a rookie salary scale as part of a new deal with players, Miller will be in line for more than $70 million over five years, based on what last year’s No. 2 pick, Detroit Lions defensive standout Ndamukong Suh, commanded when he signed a five-year deal worth $40 million guaranteed and as much as $68 million overall.
A rookie wage scale could put the Broncos on the hook to Miller for maybe $20 million or so over four years.
Either way, Fox is hoping for history to repeat itself.
He took the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2004, two years after his arrival in Charlotte and his selection of Julius Peppers with the second overall draft pick.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)