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Is Von Miller a dirty football player?

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Some fans of the NFL, particularly fans of the Kansas City Chiefs, are all whipped-up this week up over the Aqib Talib eye poking incident. Understandably so (the Broncos play the Chiefs on Sunday), but some are also claiming Von Miller is one of the dirtiest players in the NFL, "trying to hurt" opposing players after the whistle.

This debate stemmed from one of the final plays the Denver Broncos ran against the Indianapolis Colts, where Miller got tangled up with Colts tight end, Jack Doyle.

What I see here is both players utilizing an illegal hands to the face, with Doyle doing the better job of it, while also pulling Miller down to the ground with him. Miller, who was obviously perturbed did a little flop dance on his face to which Doyle responded by tripping him up with a grab at the ankle. Both players get quite chippy with each other and neither player is truly the victim here. The NFL agreed, deciding not to fine either player for the altercation.

But is the overall claim about Miller being "dirty" true?

Let's fine out. What does appear to be true is that Von Miller has been one of the most-often penalized linebackers in the NFL since 2011. Via a member of our Chiefs sister site, Arrowhead Pride:

But let’s take a closer look here. First off, this chart does not account for the simple fact that there aren’t a ton of linebackers who have started as many games as Von Miller has since 2011. Miller is naturally going to have more penalties than his peers since he’s had more snaps in that time. A better measuring stick would be to compare percentage of penalties vs. snaps among his peers.

Second, the vast majority of those penalties (18 of 27) are the offsides variety.

The rest are personal fouls; Von Miller has nine unnecessary roughness or roughing the passer penalties in his career with the Denver Broncos, spanning five seasons. For someone whose job it is to hit quarterbacks, that doesn’t seem like a lot.

FOUL TYPE OPPONENT DATE
Unnecessary Roughness New England Patriots 01/14/2012
Roughing the Passer Houston Texans 09/23/2012
Roughing the Passer Carolina Panthers 11/11/2012
Roughing the Passer Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12/02/2012
Roughing the Passer Tennessee Titans 12/08/2013
Roughing the Passer Kansas City Chiefs 11/30/2014
Unnecessary Roughness Kansas City Chiefs 09/17/2015
Roughing the Passer Detroit Lions 09/27/2015
Roughing the Passer Oakland Raiders 10/11/2015

The problem is that Miller does appear to be getting hit with a lot more of those fouls this year. A problem he hasn't had since very early in his NFL career. Certainly, this does not look like a guy who is "dirty and cheap" on a regular basis, but given the extent of coverage over Talib's incident, Miller’s getting wrapped up into that same "dirty" category.

Do I think Von Miller is a dirty football player?

Absolutely not. Though there is a fine line between playing chippy and playing dirty. There are times when Miller absolutely needs to keep his emotions in check or the referees will only make it harder for him to excel at this level. Once you get a reputation like that, whether justified or not, you will start to get flagged for some really ticky tack things.

What I do believe is that he's one of the most physical players in the NFL and that's a good thing. So let those haters hate, while Miller and the Broncos keep racking up the wins.