The Denver Broncos had a great run through the regular season in 2012 thanks to a resurgent defense that got after the opposing quarterback. They knew that formula would be difficult to replicate when Elvis Dumervil got out of the Mile High City due to a run-in with a fax machine, but were counting on Von Miller to continue his rise as an elite defensive star. Well, they may have to find another plan for the early stages of the season after Miller is expected to be suspended at least six games for violation of the league’s substance policy.
It wasn’t supposed to be that bad, however. When news first broke about Miller’s “failed” drug test, reports were that the talented linebacker would be out for the first four games of the year and Miller would appeal that to try and get that number lowered even further. Then he got arrested for failure to appear in court following a traffic violation, met with the NFL Players Association and now is out for AT LEAST six games to start the year. In short, Von Miller is the worst at appeals.
With Miller suspended, Dumervil now with the Baltimore Ravens (who come to Denver for Week 1) and Derek Wolfe sidelined for undetermined amount of time following his neck injury against the Seattle Seahawks, it’s getting harder and harder to find someone on the Broncos’ roster that will be able to provide a pass rush. Last season, Dumervil and Miller accounted for more than half of the team’s sacks and there hasn’t been much jumping up to fill the void so far this preseason.
Robert Ayers is a veteran presence at defensive end, but has never shown the ability to carry a pass rush. Shaun Phillips has seen his best pass-rushing years pass him by before joining the team this offseason. Rookie Quanterus Smith has shown a nice ability to get after the quarterback, but lacks the bulk to stand up against the run as an every-down defender. If nobody can distinguish themselves quickly as viable pass-rushers, Jack Del Rio may want to experiment with some 11-man drops in passing situations.
For a team that looked to be a preseason Super Bowl favorite out of the AFC, Denver is now reeling on the defensive side of the ball. If Miller is lost for a significant chunk of the season, it could put the Broncos in a serious hole as they try and defend their AFC West crown. Hopefully, Miller can get through his suspension without trying to defend himself again, or he just might risk a lifetime ban.