EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Von Miller acknowledges he’s no draft guru and is far from any kind of expert when it comes to quarterbacks. Well, except for sacking them, of course.
But the Denver Broncos star linebacker knew there was something special about Sam Darnold long before the New York Jets made him the No. 3 overall pick.
“I don’t know nothing about drafting a quarterback or anything like that, but I thought he was the No. 1 pick, for sure,” Miller said. “I thought he was the best offensive player in the draft.”
The Jets sure thought so, even if the teams ahead of them took guys on offense ahead of Darnold. Cleveland made quarterback Baker Mayfield the No. 1 overall pick, while the Giants went with running back Saquon Barkley with the next selection.
The Jets pounced on Darnold when their turn came up, and Miller can’t blame them.
“Baker Mayfield was the No. 1 pick, and rightfully so,” Miller said. “But in my opinion, watching everything, from a pass rusher’s point of view, I just felt like (Darnold) was the No. 1 pick in the draft. He wasn’t the No. 1 pick, but he’s definitely playing like it.”
Well, not quite. But Miller will get a chance for an up-close evaluation Sunday when the Broncos (2-2) travel to MetLife Stadium to take on Darnold’s Jets (1-3).
Darnold had a terrific NFL debut with two touchdown throws in New York’s win at Detroit, but has struggled a bit in the three games since — all losses — along with the rest of the Jets’ offense. He has just two TD passes in that span and four interceptions, although he didn’t toss one last Sunday at Jacksonville.
“As a team, I feel like we are really close, and for me personally I feel like I’m just on the edge,” Darnold said. “I’ve just got to continue to find completions, hit my guys deep when they’re there. It’ll come, it’s just a timing thing. It’s going to click one of these games, I know it is.”
This might be a tough week to get things going, though. Especially while facing a defense led by Miller, who has four sacks and two forced fumbles this season.
And, Darnold realizes Miller will be looking to add to those totals — despite all the high praise.
“It’s pretty cool that he said it,” Darnold said. “It’s definitely very humbling, very flattering, but at the same time, we’re going up against him. … I’m just going to go out there and we’re going to handle him the way that we need to and go about our business that way.”
Here are some other things to know about the matchup between the Broncos and Jets:
ON THE CASE
Broncos quarterback Case Keenum had three touchdown passes in Denver’s 27-24 season-opening win against Seattle.
He has none in the three games since.
Keenum, who signed a two-year, $36 million deal with Denver in March, is the first Broncos QB since John Elway in 1986 to go three straight games with at least 20 throws and no TDs.
The Jets are looking to snap a three-game losing streak and avoid their fourth four-game skid under coach Todd Bowles.
New York ended last season by losing four in a row, and also dropped that many twice in 2016 — with the team finishing 5-11 both years. Bowles is in his fourth season with the Jets and the heat has been turned up a bit under his seat. New York is 1-7 in its past eight, and 3-12 in the past 15.
The Broncos are coming off their first loss in 66 home games in which they held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, and nobody is spared criticism over Denver’s Monday night meltdown in a 27-23 loss to the Chiefs.
“We need more from our main guys on both sides of the ball,” coach Vance Joseph said of the Broncos’ cratering in crunch time.
And from the coaches.
“The bottom line is in this league in tough games, we have to be our best as coaches when it matters,” Joseph said. “You can call a great game for 3½ quarters, but for half a quarter when the game is on the line, we have to be our best. That is my job to help our players pull these games out.”
Keenum said he was encouraged by the way Jeff Heuerman played Monday night (four catches for 57 yards, both career highs) after Jake Butt blew out his left knee at a special teams practice last week, depriving the Broncos of their top tight end for the rest of the season.
Keenum said he thinks Heuerman can be the kind of safety valve he’s had at that position at other times in his career, such as last year in Minnesota with Kyle Randolph.
“Yeah, I think Jeff’s a great player. I think he showed it the other night that he’s in the right place at the right time, big target and he’s hard to tackle,” Keenum said. “So, a guy I’m excited to get the ball to more and more.”
If Jets running back Isaiah Crowell gets into the end zone, all eyes will be on how he celebrates.
He was penalized and given a stern talking to by Bowles after he celebrated his second TD run of the game by wiping the ball against his rear end and firing it into the stands. Crowell ended up getting fined $13,369 by the NFL for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“It won’t happen again,” said Crowell, who didn’t score at Jacksonville last Sunday — but got an endorsement deal from a company that sells a toilet paper alternative for men.
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Pro Football Writer
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