ALAMEDA – The Denver Broncos have the NFL’s best pass defense. Their secondary is awesome, featuring Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby and Chris Harris Jr. at cornerback.
Those guys cover exceptionally well, but often not for long. Why? Von Miller’s most always on the case. The Denver pass rush is tied for the league lead with 28 sacks. Miller has that sum’s lion’s share.
Miller has 8.5 sacks and a forced fumble through eight games, easily heading toward double-digit sacks in five of his first six seasons. He had five sacks in 2009 when he only played nine games.
Bottom line: Miller is a game wrecker, and could be major a factor in Sunday night’s clash between the Raiders and Broncos. He certainly was in Super Bowl 50, when he earned MVP honors in a Broncos victory.
“Von Miller, I have the utmost respect for, obviously,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “…He’s one of the best players that we’ve ever seen in this league, especially as a pass rusher. … It doesn’t matter what you try to do, eventually he’s going to make a play. It’s fun to watch him play. It’s fun to compete against him because he’s one of the best. I love that. He’s just a special talent, he really is.”
As the opposition often does against Khalil Mack, teams scheme against the top pass rusher. That’s certainly the case with Miller, though Denver has a diverse pass rush. A total of five players have at least two sacks this season, including edge rushers DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray and end Derek Wolfe.
“A lot of different players are capable,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “DeMarcus Ware is one of the more decorated pass rushers of the last 10 years or so. They have a bunch of guys that can get there. They have good cover people. Rush and coverage make up good pass defense.”
Many have compared Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack and Miller, though they’re different players in style and function.
“There isn’t really a comparison,” Mack said. “We’re two different players in two different schemes. We’re trying to do the most to put our teams in position to win. That’s what you see.”
What many see is that Miller’s a game changer as much by threat as action. In addition to 8.5 sacks, he has four quarterback hits and 31 other pressures. He’s excellent forcing errant throws for an opportunistic secondary. Football people say rush and coverage work together, and Miller’s the catalyst of Denver operating at a staggering defensive clip with opportunities for big turnovers.
Carr is fully aware of the challenge ahead.
“You definitely want to make sure your feet lead you to completions,” Carr said. “You try and train in the offseason to where you’re on a clock all the time, so not just when you need it or things like that. That’s why you train your feet to make sure you’re on time to your throws and things like that then you don’t even have to worry about it.”