ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Defiance in Von Miller’s voice one week, humility the next.
Having the same number of tackles as Peyton Manning did against the Kansas City Chiefs — one — can do that to a man, even one whom John Elway last summer called the best football player on the planet.
“I’m a work in progress,” Miller said. “I definitely feel like I could be more productive. It starts at practice. I got to have better practices and I think that will carry over into the game. That’s the easiest thing to fix is myself. I go out there every day motivated to get better.”
Miller has 14 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries and one forced fumble in the month since he’s returned from a six-game suspension to start the season.
Those stats are nothing to scoff at, unless of course, you’re Miller, who put up monster numbers in his first two seasons in the NFL, totaling 30 sacks, two trips to the Pro Bowl and the 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
To be sure, the Broncos have stymied their last three opponents — Washington, San Diego and Kansas City — now that Miller is back in the lineup alongside middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who missed Miller’s return against Indianapolis last month because he was still dealing with a shoulder stinger.
After finishing second to J.J. Watts for Defensive Player of the Year last season, Miller set out on a weight gain program and now tips the scales at 270 pounds, a good 24 pounds more than when he was the second overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Texas A&M.
That extra weight helps him overpower offensive linemen, but it might also be robbing him of that athletic dip that made him so special and helped him get around pass protectors so often in the past.
Asked about that last week, Miller struck a defiant tone, saying, “I think the Von before had bull rush, too. I think that guy was pretty good, too. But the Von now — I feel like I’ve definitely got my body in shape. And with the added experience from last year and the same defensive coordinator, there are a lot of factors that go into it. I’m just hoping that the production comes this week.”
Then, he was in on just one assisted tackle in Denver’s 27-17 win over previously unbeaten Kansas City, when Manning saved a touchdown by tackling linebacker Derrick Johnson following a fumble.
On Monday, interim head coach/defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was asked about how those extra pounds had impacted Miller’s play and he took the opportunity to lay down a challenge.
“I don’t know if I could answer that directly. I still think his best football is in front of him,” Del Rio said. “I think it’s important that young players continue to work to give themselves a chance to develop and so he just needs to work and continue to work his way back. I think he’s been OK, but he hasn’t quite been as impactful as he’s capable of being and we need him to be impactful.
“That’s one of the reasons why I really believe as we continue through this second half of the year that we should get a surge from him returning to top form. Certainly we would welcome that.”
Miller didn’t disagree with Del Rio’s assessment.
“I definitely think I can be more impactful,” Miller said. “I definitely think I can make more plays, be more productive. If I went out there and got six sacks I think I could be more productive. That’s just me. I hold myself to a higher standard than any of my teammates and my coaches.”
BY ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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