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Broncos roster 2017: Von Miller

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Miller could have his best season yet in the NFL. If he does that means Denver is on the right path to return to the playoffs.

NFL: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Von Miller
Position: OLB
Height: 6’3" Weight: 250 lbs
Age: 28 Experience: 7th
College: Texas A&M

What’s the most common debate that fans dive into? Who is the face of their favorite franchise, of course.

In some instances it’s really easy to find the answer - see the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots. For other teams, it’s more challenging - see the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks.

Put the Denver Broncos in the first category, and that’s because of Von Miller. After he signed his contract last summer, I said he was the new face of the franchise. A year later, there’s no debate. Miller is the face of the Broncos.

He had one of his best seasons in the NFL when he finished with a career-high 78 tackles and 13.5 sacks. That’s the third highest amount of sacks in his six-year career. Here’s the fun part: Miller hasn’t even scratched the surface yet and he knows it.

“I don’t know. I had a lot of great things (happen),” he said after practice in late May. “My second year was good. I think my fifth year was good and my sixth year was good. I think they’re all good. Me personally, I always felt like my best season is my season coming up next. It’s just how I always played. I played in my rookie season and I came in, and alright, my next season is going to be my best one - 2013. It didn’t work like that for me, but I came back and said, ‘2014 is going to be my best one.’ It happened to be my second-best season. 2015 was a great season for me as well. We won the Super Bowl - Super Bowl MVP.

“Next year after that I was like, ‘This is going to be my best year.’ 2016, I came in and finished second in (The Associated Press Defensive) Player of the Year voting. I like to say that this season is going to be my best season yet. I’ve just been coming in and attacking it like that. I feel like this season will be my best season yet.”

The Good

Miller’s drive this offseason shows how motivated he is to build off of last year. He may have had a great season but the team did not. He wants that to change in 2017. Miller’s done that through his actions as opposed to just words. The combination of the two has way more impact on his teammates.

When you see how hard the face of the franchise is working, you take notice.

“Goals and roles change every single year,” he said after practice in late May. “I just want to be in great shape. I want to push my body to a spot that it has never been before. You’re never guaranteed that working hard off the field will translate to on-the-field success, but that is what I am hoping for this year. I’ve never worked as hard as I am working this offseason. Things don’t always happen like you want them to, but I’m hoping that work off the field translates over to the field.

“I’m just going to take it one play at a time and one game at a time. I’m going to continue to work on leadership and continue to lead my guys in the locker room. Good things always happen, especially here. I’m just taking in one day at a time. Whatever happens, I’m going to be OK with.”

When that same player also takes the first-round pick under his wing, you really take notice. The rest of Denver’s defense has followed Miller’s lead when it comes to rookie left tackle Garett Bolles.

“They’re great teammates,” Bolles said. “They come up to me and tell me, ‘hey your hands are low, your feet aren’t moving, you’re off-balance.’ They’re there to help me. They know I’m there to help them ... that’s how we are. We’re just a family.”

All of that leads to a defense and team that is on the same page. They know the expectations that come when you play for the Broncos. The only way to make that happen is to work together as one. For Denver’s defense, as good as it is, it must get even better. It must never settle.

That makes the example Miller has shown even more crucial.

The Bad

The Broncos didn’t make the playoffs.

That’s not on Miller, but when you’re the face of the franchise, it still falls on him. And Miller knows that. He knows that’s unacceptable for this franchise. Based on all that he’s said and shown, he wants to correct that in 2017.

“The thing about football teams is that you have a lot of different personalities and a lot of different opinions,” he said. “I could definitely see where T.J. (Ward) was coming from, but we played hard last year. I thought we were relentless, especially with the cards that we were dealt with guys being hurt and the struggles that we had on both sides of the ball and special teams. I felt like we played hard. We play hard every time we go out there. We play hard and we play like pros.

“We play like how we’re supposed to play. You don’t always win, but nobody is slopping it out. We go out there and we try to win. In the National Football League, that’s really the only thing that matters, especially when I’m going out there with my guys. We’re trying to win. It doesn’t always happen like that, but that is the main goal. I certainly think we have a lot more this year than we did last year.”

Denver’s defense must get better against the run this season. That ties into his desire to stay on the field more. Unlike some/most outside linebackers, Miller is dominant in the pass and run game. The more he’s on the field, the more opposing offenses have to account for him. That means fewer blockers for other Broncos defenders.

At the same time, if the middle of Denver’s line gets more of a consistent push this season, that opens up Miller, Shane Ray and the other outside defenders even more.

As an individual, Miller will look to wreak even more havoc this season. More sacks, more tackles for loss, more turnovers. The rest of the defense needs that mindset too.

Quotable

Miller on that mindset: “I like to think of it more as being greedy. Moral of defense is being greedy. Sometimes when you’re hungry and you make a play, you ease up. But if you have that greedy mindset - I want one sack, two sacks, three sacks, four sacks - I don’t even want him to pass the ball. I think it works a lot better especially with my position and with what I do. Hungry, you can kind of fade a little bit, but being greedy, it’s always there. It’s the mindset and it’s a trait. On defense, I think me and Shane have that.”

Status

Miller is the unquestioned face of the Broncos. He’s also one of the best in the NFL.

As fans are akin to do, they’re prone to use this time of year to see all the positives and how great the coming season will play out. You get that sense with Miller, but there’s reason to believe it.

Miller is on the path to have his best season yet in the NFL. He has the approach and attitude to make it come to fruition. He’s also using that to make his teammates better. Miller knows it doesn’t matter what he does if the team comes up short again. If all of that happens, the Broncos are on the right path to get back to the playoffs.