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Opponent preview: Denver Broncos wrecking ball Von Miller

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If the Denver Broncos pull off the upset in Orchard Park, Von Miller is the likely culprit

Psst... Come here. I’ll let you in on a secret. This Von Miller character on the Denver Broncos is pretty good. Wait? You already knew that? Fine. We all did. In the NFL, fortunes can change rapidly, however, so it’s not a bad idea to check in from time to time. For a Buffalo Bills team looking to take out the Broncos on Sunday, they’ll need to have a plan for Miller. Let’s take a look at his best game this season and one of his worst to see what might happen come Sunday.


Play 1

Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Von Miller recorded two sacks, two tackles for a loss, and four quarterback hits. Here’s the first sack, which seems to have resulted from a variety of factors. A primary factor is that Miller uses a lot of force in that rip move that helps dislodge the arm of rookie Jawaan Taylor.

Another factor is precisely the fact that Taylor is a rookie. It doesn’t look like he latched on as well as he could have. There is a specific exemption in the rule book for offensive holding. When the defender uses a “rip” move like Miller does here, holding shouldn’t be called. In other words, he could have held on tighter. Incidentally, this is why Jerry Hughes doesn’t draw more holding calls. Hughes loves the rip move.

Play 2

And here’s the second sack. At this point Miller had alternated his path around Taylor a few times. Miller sets it up like he’s going outside then quickly cuts back in. The sudden movement toward Taylor rapidly decreases the space between the two. As Taylor attempts to adjust, he’s too high in his stance and his feet aren’t anywhere he’d like them to be. Miller has a clear leverage advantage and the result speaks for itself.

Play 3

Sometimes it’s a tiny thing that’s impressive and here are a couple to help explain why Von Miller has been so successful. He’s not always the first off the snap but it’s not rare and that burst is dynamite. I highlight that his head never shifts position while defending himself against the cut block. This is usually an indication the player is processing the interaction with their peripheral vision. The ability to do this successfully allows him to react to a broader range of stimuli. Said more simply, it’s harder to catch him off guard.

Play 4

Von Miller often plays a role you would expect more from Star Lotulelei in that he hangs back in case the play comes to him. This does result in a much more passive Von Miller. Here the result is that he doesn’t close the gap and allows some extra yards.

Play 5

It’s important to see upside across multiple facets of a player. When Miller has the leverage advantage he can be scary.

Play 6

The spin move isn’t a go-to for Miller but he has a good one. I especially like this example as he’s able to drive into his opponent all while keeping hands off him with the spin.

Miller was successful against Jacksonville in large part because of a favorable match-up against a rookie tackle. Jacksonville didn’t go gangbusters helping out on Miller either. The Jaguars did come away with a win so their plan worked in the end.

Play 7

Against the Cleveland Browns, Von Miller had a single solo tackle and one quarterback hit. He helped out on two other tackles. The play above then is a large portion of his statistical production for the day. If you’re watching Miller, always look for subtlety. The extended arms give him the ability to pull as a counter move (rather than the more common push). There’s a quick tug from his left arm that helps him shed the block to get back to the play.

Play 8

The Browns were more successful neutralizing Miller mostly as a result of a more deliberate attempt to do so. There were plenty of examples of Cleveland helping their line out against Miller, including this one that bears a lot of similarity with a wham block. Left tackle Greg Robinson still misses and Miller brings some pressure. Also of note, Denver had Miller work from both sides against Cleveland as well, trying to find the weakest link. Against the Jaguars, Miller worked exclusively from the left side (vs. right tackle).


Summary

Von Miller has the ability to go on a rampage and disrupt a game all by his lonesome. Speed, power, and finesse are all present in the veteran. It’s a certainty the coaches have spent some time thinking about Miller.

As Cleveland demonstrated—and the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, and Los Angeles Chargers—you can successfully scheme against Miller and limit his impact. With potential match-ups against Dion Dawkins or Cody Ford on the horizon, the Bills may look to add a heavy dose of Lee Smith. A fast passing attack could do the trick as well, with last week’s game against the Miami Dolphins establishing a high-tempo blueprint. It’s also possible they elect to take the path the Jaguars did and trust their tackles to get the job done. Whichever path they choose, here’s to hoping it’s the mot successful one.