<
>

Von Miller 'a lot better' than he was at this point last season, says Wade Phillips

Broncos linebacker Von Miller leads the league in sacks (five) after three games. Rich Gabrielson/Icon Sportswire

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Three games in, with plenty of season still to go, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller has punched a rather large hole -- like say 6-foot-3, 250 pounds or so -- in the whole offseason program thing.

Miller was in the middle of contract negotiations when the Broncos were going though their conditioning workouts, then OTAs, then minicamp. He was also crisscrossing the football nation with a variety of appearances in the wake of a Super Bowl MVP award.

But then all of the t's were crossed on his record contract in July -- $114.5 million with $70 million guaranteed -- and Miller opened training camp with his teammates. He quickly went about the business of dominating workouts. And then he opened the new season in the same offense-wrecking fashion that he closed the old one. Miller leads the league in sacks after three games -- he has five -- and has won a Defensive Player of the Week award to go with a Defensive Player of the Month award as well.

"I said it earlier, I thought that he was a lot better at this point this year than he was last year," said Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. "He’s proven so."

And then Phillips added with a laugh, “The offseason might be overrated a little bit. He came to training camp and he was ready to go. That’s a big thing.”

Whenever he surfaced during the offseason, Miller routinely said he would be ready to play when his contract situation was ironed out. He said, over and over again, including during the Broncos’ trip to the White House in June, that he would “be ready."

Turns out, he was and the results thus far are the proof.

"I would never worry about his ability to focus on football," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said of the offseason. “Von loves to play. What you worry about is just the overall conditioning of what they go through during the offseason, what (strength and conditioning coach) Luke (Richesson) puts them through. You can say that you’re doing it on your own, you’re working, but it’s still not the same. That’s what you worry about with guys coming in. Obviously, he took care of his business."

“My first day of practice I was running around, trying to fit in and fit the mold and stuff, but I was like, ‘Man, I really did miss OTAs and offseason training’," Miller said. “I really just had to get on the fast track and learn all that stuff. I’m a football player so it was easy for me to pick back up on all the stuff that I do naturally, but OTAs and the offseason, we really do need that stuff. Me personally, I need that stuff."

Miller, as expected, has attracted plenty of attention from opposing offenses already, as he has to sift through plenty of double- or triple-teams along the way. He said it’s all part of the job and that any blocker in front of him is not in front of one of the Broncos' other pass rushers. And, against the Broncos' secondary, offenses can't keep all of the potential pass catchers in to block all the time because they won't be able to consistently move the ball with only two receivers in the pattern. "That's a win-win for us, either way," he added.

The Broncos will be without DeMarcus Ware in the pass rush for several more weeks after Ware suffered a fractured forearm in the Week 2 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Shane Ray, the team’s first-round pick in the 2015 draft, had three sacks this past Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It’s just the first month of the season; we’ve still got a long way to go," Miller said. “That’s the mindset I have. That’s the mindset that’s been working for me. ... I don’t really have too much to worry about but football, being here with my guys and trying to be the best Von Miller I can be for this organization. When you look at it with that mindset, it makes it pretty easy. ... The locker room keeps everybody straight. We hold everybody to a higher standard and that’s where all this success is coming from."