Five minutes. One sack dance.
That sums up the 2017 preseason stat line of Von Miller. It’s all the Broncos needed to see from their all-pro pass rusher.
Miller made his preseason debut Saturday night and didn’t need much time to make his disruptive presence felt. With the Packers facing a third-and-7 at the Denver 23-yard line, Miller spun inside of right tackle Jason Spriggs and beat the help from the interior of the Green Bay offensive line to sack Aaron Rodgers. The play forced the Packers to settle for a 52-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.
Miller celebrated the sack with a slow sway of his hips. He watched the rest of the game from the sideline with an orange baseball cap on his head, his lone action of the preseason reaching a quick end after two series.
The quick-strike play of Miller was a reminder of the destructive nature possessed by one of the game’s premier pass rushers, one who is roaring into his prime. Miller, who finished a vote shy of winning defensive player of the year honors in 2016, showed up to training camp at the end of July somehow appearing bigger, faster and stronger than the player who has tortured quarterbacks during his first six NFL seasons.
“Every single day, when we get a break, I go to work,” Miller said earlier this month. “I’m not going home, going to get lunch or taking a break. I’m getting in the facility all day. All the time that I get, I like to take advantage of it, whether it’s the walk-through time, the weight room time or the lunch time. I like to take advantage of every single minute that I’ve got and really try to transfer that into my game.”
Even with Miller making an early exit, the Broncos’ starting defense dominated for the third time in as many games in preseason games. Denver limited Green Bay to 102 total yards in the first half, and 25 of those came on one Ty Montgomery rush early in the first quarter. The only touchdown by the Packers in the first half came after safety Kentrell Brice returned an interception to the Denver 2-yard line.
The Broncos limited the 49ers to 25 yards rushing on 10 carries in the first half last week. Take away Montgomery’s big run, the Packers managed only 10 yards on seven carries in the first half Saturday. It’s an encouraging — albeit small — sample size for a defense that ranked 28th in the NFL in rush defense last season.
Defensive end Shelby Harris, who covered two fumbles against San Francisco, stood out again. He sacked Packers backup quarterback Brett Hundley and had two tackles for loss in the first half.