Last year, the Buffalo Bills added what they thought would be the final piece to a championship-caliber defense. What they didn’t anticipate, though, was a terrible run of bad luck regarding injuries. When that acquisition (the feather in the cap for general manager Brandon Beane) also went down with an injury, it took a lot of the wind out of the team’s sails.
This year, though, that acquisition is nearly at full strength, and while he says he’d like to play in Week 1, the team would be happy to give him time to wait if need be. Defensive end is a deep positional group for the Bills, but it’s a group that’s obviously best with its best player healthy.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss Buffalo’s top pass rusher — a future Hall of Fame player looking to return to the field and bring a Lombardi Trophy to One Bills Drive.
Name: Von Miller
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 250 pounds
Age: 34 (35 on 3/26/2024)
College: Texas A&M
Acquired: Signed with Buffalo on 3/16/2022
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Miller enters the second year of the six-year deal he signed with Buffalo last offseason. His cap hit is a steal at just $7.939 million. If Buffalo were to move on from Miller prior to Week 1, they’d be on the hook for a dead-cap charge of $40.175 million.
2022 Recap: Miller was signed to be “the closer” — the player who came in and ended tight games by suffocating the quarterback. And, for the first two months of the season, Miller did just that. He had eight sacks, ten tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hits, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble in Buffalo’s first 11 games. The problem, of course, is that the 11th game of the year was his final one, as Miller suffered a torn ACL on Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions. It was the second consecutive year where an All-Pro defender tore his ACL on Thanksgiving for the Bills. Adding insult to injury was that Tre’Davious White, the player who suffered that ACL tear on Thanksgiving Night 2021, made his 2022 season debut in the same game where Miller was injured. Miller finished his first season with the Bills with a total of 21 tackles in addition to the aforementioned stat line.
Positional outlook: Miller is still listed as a linebacker, though he functions more as a defensive end in Buffalo’s defense. He’s joined by A.J. Epenesa, Greg Rousseau, Shaq Lawson, Boogie Basham, Shane Ray, Jonathan Kingsley, Kameron Cline, and Leonard Floyd.
2023 Offseason: Miller is healthy enough to participate in individual drills, but he has yet to play in team activities this offseason. He’s on the PUP list to begin camp.
2023 Season outlook: If the Bills are only going to have Miller around for 11 regular-season games, it’s certainly preferable to have him for the last 11 than it is the first 11, and that’s a likely scenario this season given his placement on the PUP list. Miller has long claimed that it’s his goal to be on the field for Week 1, but rushing him back is certainly not advisable. Buffalo gave themselves some breathing room by signing Floyd, and if either Epenesa or Basham — or both, preferably — can take a big step forward, this has the potential to be a scary defensive line grouping. The scariest piece of the puzzle is Miller — a future Hall of Fame player who hopes to return straight to form a year removed from ACL surgery.
This is the second ACL tear Miller has suffered, and he was able to return for Week 1 in 2014 after tearing the ACL in December of 2013. Granted, that’s a long time ago — Miller was just 25 when he returned to play — but he had a monster year for Denver in 2014, coming up with 14 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and 27 quarterback hits in earning Second-Team All-Pro honors.
If Miller can come back by the end of September and notch a stat line that’s a fraction of that, then it’s going to be a good year for Buffalo on defense. Miller looks great, and he definitely takes care of his body. I expect a big year for Buffalo’s biggest sack man whenever his year can begin.