By Rich Kurtzman
When the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year is decided upon in the next few weeks, there’s only one correct choice—Von Miller.
Miller is monster, he completely disrupts pass-blocking schemes and must be taken into account every time he’s on the field. The second-year linebacker is an athletic freak of nature—he’s the perfect combination of speed, size and strength needed to attack the quarterback at the highest of levels.
Through 13 weeks of playing, Miller has racked up 16 total sacks, which ranks him third overall, including at least one per game in the last six weeks. But it’s not just that he gets sacks, it’s how he does so. The 23-year old is intelligent with his play; he can use a litany of moves to get around, or through, offensive linemen. He can power-rush and knock the bigger player back and into the QB, or he can utilize a spin or swim move to bust through the line as well.
But Miller’s best pass-rush is something no other player possesses in football today; the sprint-rush. He starts off in a two-point stance, as usual, and begins to run straight at his would-be blocker as if to engage him in physical hand-fighting. Instead of getting into the blocker, he flies right by him, denying nearly all contact and getting to the quarterback before he can say “hike!” In the Broncos’ Week 11 win over San Diego, Miller enjoyed his best game of the season; totaling three sacks, including two forced fumbles of Philip Rivers. On one rush in particular, he ran toward the tackle, juked right and left, then went right around him, making the opponent look silly while making the huge play. Last week in Oakland, he enjoyed a similarly dominant play. This time, he simply went flying by and under the tackle, basically untouched before crushing Carson Palmer and forcing a fumble on the two yardline.
He dances around offensive tackles and dances after a sack. He’s fun to watch and fun-loving—it’s evident he enjoys his work.
And once Miller gets to the QB, he doesn’t stop there, forcing a total of six fumbles, which is tied for most in the league. His 57 combined tackles are second-most among the sack leaders, just three behind J.J. Watt.
But what Miller has that neither Watt—who is his main competition for Defensive Player of the Year—nor sack-leader Aldon Smith have, is an interception and a touchdown. See, what makes the Broncos’ linebacker so special is that he’s not just a pass-rushing specialist—like the other two—he also drops back into coverage a chunk of the time, and does well there. His 4.49 speed help him keep up with fast running backs while his mighty strength allows him to jocky for position with tight ends. Two weeks ago against Tampa Bay, Miller dropped back into coverage and found a Josh Freeman pass floating his way, jumped up and snagged it out of the air before racing down the field untouched for the 26-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
Von Miller’s an amazing player—reminding football aficionados of Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas—and not only his dominance of the line of scrimmage, but his versatility on the field as well, should make him the NFL’s Defensive POY.
Here’s how Von Miller stacks up against his competition for Defensive Player of the Year:
Von Miller (Denver Broncos) – Sacks: 16, Tackles: 57, Forced Fumbles: 6, Passes Defended: 2, Interceptions: 1, Touchdowns: 1
J.J. Watt (Houston Texans) – Sacks: 16.5, Tackles: 60, Forced Fumbles: 1, Passes Defended: 15, Interceptions: 0, Touchdowns: 0
Aldon Smith (San Francisco 49ers) – Sacks: 17.5, Tackles: 51, Forced Fumbles: 3, Passes Defended: 0, Interceptions: 0, Touchdowns: 0
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.