Thirty-one years ago, a linebacker by the name of Lawrence Taylor was drafted by the New York Giants and over the course of a 13 year career, that man revolutionized the linebacker position in the NFL. In 1989, another LB by name of Derrick Thomas was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs and over his 11 year career, he refined the position. In 2011, Von Miller was taken by the Denver Broncos, and some may now say that he has mastered the linebacking position by mimicking the traits of both of the aforementioned hall of famers.
Last year, even though Miller(11.5) did not have as many sacks as LB Aldon Smith(14) of the San Francisco 49ers, the voters still gave him Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. This year, the voters will undoubtedly follow suit in voting for Defensive Player of the Year. Understand that over the course of the next decade, three players will be linked and discussed in the same breath no matter what the conversation is about. Miller, Smith and J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans are all in their second year, and all have been absolutely monstrous when rushing opposing QBs.
The difference with Miller, though, is that he is not just a pass rusher. Miller shows all of the attributes of Thomas and Taylor: quickness, agility, prowess, ball awareness, pass protector and power rusher that can manhandle any offensive lineman. Smith and Watt are better than most in the NFL, but they are pure pass rushers that will always rely on their sack stats to show their worth.
The voters know otherwise, though, when it comes to naming their MVPs. There is only one LB that is still in the game today that is as destructive as Miller, and although he is hurt and out for the season he must get his due: Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis. But he is destructive in other many ways besides rushing the QB.
Von Miller will win the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Award because he is so much more than just a sack master. In fact, if his career continues this way, we may very well be talking about him as the greatest to ever play the game at the LB position. But for now, it is fun to watch the progress and growth of all three of these second year players: Miller, Smith and Watt. 2011 may become known as the greatest draft for their position ever, and we can not ask for anything more than that.
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