Losing Von Miller is not a catastrophe

Scott Halleran

There is one player on this team the Broncos couldn't afford to lose to injury and his name is Peyton Manning. Other than that, the slack can be picked up. I'm not going to tell you it will be gumdrops and lollipops with Von Miller out of the lineup--his loss is big. But I'm also not going to sit here and pretend that we are doomed because of it--that is far from the truth.

First things first - What will the defense look like?

Base (5-2, 4-3 Under)

These are observations straight from the Texans game after Von Miller left the game. Irving took his role as the SLB, and we had a DT rotation of Knighton with Williams or once in a while Knighton with Unrein. Knighton is key, he's the 1 tech monster that plugs the middle. Williams and Unrein will play the UT role more often than not. As far as who plays Wolfe's role as that 5 tech DE, it was either Malik Jackson or Jeremy Mincey. The other end was almost always Robert Ayers.

Shaun Phillips could probably play the SLB role in place of Irving, but if you see him in this configuration it will almost always be in a rotation with Robert Ayers.

Base (4-3)

Not sure if this was the gameplan coming into the game or an adjustment due to Von's injury (most likely an adjustment), but the Broncos showed more standard 4-3 looks. Against the passing game it was really standard Tampa-2 type stuff with the MLB (Lenon) retreating to play zone in the intermediate middle of the field.

With this look they used Malik Jackson as one of their ends on every snap with a rotation of Phillips/Ayers opposite.


With this look they used the following configurations (left to right from the offenses point of view):

Ayers, Unrein, Williams, Jackson

Ayers, Jackson, Williams, Phillips

The latter configuration is the most optimal from a pass rushing perspective. Expect this lineup to be similar in the dime defense.


The Broncos did run some weird 7 DB looks with 3-down linemen. Here they utilized Ayers and Phillips as ends and Malik Jackson as a 0/1 tech.

What we will miss

Von Miller can make plays others are unable to make. Bottom line, his skillset is special and these are the plays we will miss. Whether it be the speed off the edge, the crazy dip and balance around an offensive linemen, and the uncanny ability to strip the QB of the ball. The ability to snake around a block and grab a back by the ankles to create a loss in the backfield. We will miss these plays and they will be more rare with him out of the lineup.

What we can still do with him gone

Get pressure. We have guys all along the line that are capable of bringing pressure. Here is just an example of what we have left:


Pass Rush Snaps


Hits,Hurries, Pressures



Shaun Phillips






Robert Ayers






Malik Jackson






Terrence Knighton






Jeremy Mincey






Sylvester Williams






Mitch Unrein






Derek Wolfe






* Numbers courtesy of PFF

As far as efficiency, to break the top 10 pass rushers at defensive tackle requires a number of 10.1%. Jackson, Knighton, and Wolfe surpass that threshold.

With Defensive ends, to crack the top 10 in efficiency requires a number of 12.9%. Mincey approaches that figure and both Phillips and Ayers fall just short.

Von Miller at the time of his injury stood at 15.9%. However in the last three games (KC, HOU, SD) he registered 1 sack and 6 pressures for 7 total over the course of 81 pass rushing snaps for an efficiency of 8.6%.

Enough with the Numbers

I know there are some that don't care what the information says. The eye tells you our defense is better with Von Miller than without it.

The truth is, even with Von Miller this defense has struggled. This is a unit that surrendered 39 points to Indianapolis in Von's first game back. Three weeks later it allowed Tom Brady and New England to score 31 points in two quarters of work. A week later it allowed Alex Smith and the Chiefs to put up 28, and the same a week later against Ryan Kirkpatrick and the Tennessee Titans. At home against San Diego it gave up 27. This defense has struggled Von or no Von.

It has struggled due to, well injury. Wolfe, Vickerson, Champ, Rahim Moore, other players for stretches of games or a game here or there. It has struggled because there has been little consistency in the lineup. Lots of moving parts make for lots of potential mistakes.

Am I trying to feed you that we are better off without Von Miller? Absolutely not. But he's just one player. A very special player, no doubt, but just one player nonetheless.

We still have the tools and players to be above average rushing the passer. We will start to get back pieces of our secondary--starting this past week with Champ Bailey that will give us some stability there. This defense just played it's best game of the season.

Allowing 13 points is a starting place and the defense accomplished that without the presence of its bluechip player.

More than anything what this defense needs is consistency. The suspension to begin the season already forced our players and coaches to adapt without Von Miller so we are not on new ground.

I'd rather have Von out there.

But we can succeed without him--bank on it.


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