ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- During Von Miller’s rookie year in 2011 there were times when the Denver Broncos' defensive coaches did what would have seemed unthinkable in 2012 as he roared through and around opposing linemen for 18.5 sacks -- they took him off the field in many passing situations.
They did, in large part, because Miller had some rather pronounced growing pains in terms of manning his position during the times he wasn’t chasing opposing quarterbacks in that first year. It was most evident against those offenses who tossed passes over his hand to waiting running backs or those who ran the ball to his inside shoulder as he charged up the field. And at times opposing coordinators will still try to sneak a play or two past him as he moves toward the quarterback.
Sunday will be an opportunity for Miller to show how far he has, or hasn’t come, in all that happened since, including a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has called Miller a “dynamic player’’ and the Broncos will need him to be at his dynamic best against Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Griffin, in the Redskins’ version of the read-option, is a test of discipline for a defense’s edge players. And after games of three carries and one carry earlier this season as he continued to work his way back from last year’s knee injury, Griffin has cranked up Washington’s run game over the past two weeks.
“You could see the last couple games, he’s gotten back to the way he was last year,’’ Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “You can see that he’s feeling better.’’
In a loss to the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, Griffin carried the ball nine times for 77 yards, or more than the 72 yards rushing combined he had in the team’s first four games of the season. Last week, in a wild win over the Bears, he ran 11 times for 84 yards.
Griffin is adept with the ball fakes in the option look – he carries them out with the discipline and gives the same look whether he keeps the ball on the play or gives it to the running back. Griffin also has world-class speed as well, so he doesn’t need all that much room to clear the first level of the defense and get himself into the open field. With his experiences at Baylor, he's been running the plays for some time.
Miller, who most often is on the strong side of the formation – the defensive left – as well as all of the Broncos’ other edge players, like defensive ends Robert Ayers and Shaun Phillips, have to hold their ground when the Redskins go to the option look. The Colts found some success pinning both Miller and Phillips inside on a smattering of plays, including Colts wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey’s 30-yard run around right end when Indianapolis got Phillips turned this past Sunday night.
“He did a good job running the football last week,’’ Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “I think he’s just getting comfortable back with his knee and he’s one of the players that -- me, as an NFL guy -- I respect watching him play. It’s good seeing him back there, full speed, and he’s getting comfortable on that knee, so that’s always good. We expect a little running from him, a little bit more.’’