ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Von Miller plays a lot in the Denver Broncos' defense -- as he should, because good things usually happen for the Broncos when the linebacker's on the field. But Miller says he could be out there even a little more.
“Oh yeah, I’ve done some things with my workouts, cardio, working for time, how quick I go from one thing to the next,’’ Miller said. “It’s going to help. I think it could be big.’’
Miller played 81.2 percent of the defense’s snaps last season -- 930 in all. Among the team’s front seven, only defensive end Jared Crick played more (82 percent, 939 snaps) -- after defensive end Derek Wolfe had missed two games.
And while Miller finished with 13.5 sacks in 2016 -- his third season with at least 13.5 and fifth season with at least 11 -- the Broncos missed the playoffs and Miller didn’t have a sack the last four games. The major reason for that was the amount of attention Miller received in opposing blocking schemes -- double-teams were common and some triple-teams were used. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware’s injuries and the Broncos’ inability to consistently stop the run didn't help either.
But Miller decided he could do his part by staying on the field a few more plays each game.
“Cardio and endurance is really the thing that I need to focus on,’’ Miller said. “If I can stay on the field, I can play eight snaps instead of five snaps. It allows me more time to make plays, and it allows me more opportunities and exposure to make plays. That’s been my whole goal this year. Just trying to stay on the field and have more exposure to football plays because you can’t make plays unless you are on the football field. I don’t want to be on the football field just going through the motions. I just want to be on the field like I know how to be.’’
Said coach Vance Joseph: “You always want a player like Von out there as much as possible. But you want him productive in those snaps, too, and to come off the field if he needs a minute, but overall you want Von Miller in your defense at every single opportunity. He's special. You don't find many guys like that in your career.’’
Miller said he’s had more time to make those adjustments, because at this time last season, he was not around the Broncos due to a contract impasse -- he didn't sign his $114.5 million deal until July. While Miller quickly added, “I never want to miss the playoffs,’’ the fact the Broncos (9-7) did miss the postseason has given him some time to retool his approach.
Asked if those changes included any non-football activities like cycling or obstacle-course training, Miller said: “I'm not doing that. Why would I bike on the road, in traffic, and risk all that?’’ He said he's kept to more traditional workouts, but he's sped them up and increased what he's doing overall, hoping those changes will help him when it’s time to play the games.
“I resumed where I was when I came back and the deal got done and all the things from after the Super Bowl were done,’’ Miller said. “I think I still played at a high level, but I want to make more plays, game-changing plays. That’s why I’m here. Right now my mind is about using this time, this year, to take my game where it hasn’t been before.’’
In terms of sacks, 2012 was Miller’s best season, when he finished with 18.5 in Jack Del Rio’s defense. But in terms of overall impact, factoring in the number of blockers he routinely had to contend with, last season’s 78 tackles and 13.5 sacks may have been his best so far.
“I want to push my body to a spot where it’s never been before,’’ Miller said. “You’re never guaranteed that working hard will translate to on-the-field success, but that’s what I’m hoping for. I’ve never worked as hard as I’m working this season.
“I know there’s more in there, more in me,’’ Miller added. “I want to get it out, show it. Ten years from now, I want to be standing here talking about how I didn’t miss any opportunities to do great things. That’s on me, I know that, but that’s my goal.’’