With Von Miller facing a potential four-game suspension, there is a chance the Broncos are going to have to get creative and find a way to pick up the slack.
The suspension for Miller came as a complete shock to Broncos fans and pretty much everyone who pays any attention to the NFL at all. Miller has been an active part of the Denver community since joining the Broncos, and has a reputation as one of the most focused and hardest working players in the league.
This news is especially unwelcome since the Broncos already lost another star, defensive end Elvis Dumervil, to the Baltimore Ravens earlier this offseason.
On the eve of training camp, the thought of Von Miller not being on the Broncos’ opening day roster is a pretty scary one. So how will the Broncos cope? Their first four games are against the Ravens, Giants, Raiders, and Eagles, and while no game in the NFL is a gimme, I think they would still be in good shape even without Miller.
It would be ignorant to say that losing Miller wouldn’t leave the Broncos any worse off than they are with him, but there are some important factors to keep in mind if indeed #58 misses any significant amount of time. Even if Miller has a suspension reduced to two games, or even one game, the Broncos might have to figure out what life without him could be like. The pass rush will take a huge blow, but here’s how they could pick up the slack.
1. The Offense
The Broncos’ offense has the potential to be the very best in the NFL. You don’t need to look any further than the guy who is taking all the snaps, quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning is arguably the best player in the NFL right now, and he had a monster first year with the Broncos.
With him in the fold, the Broncos always have a chance to win games. Not having Miller might mean Manning and the offense need to step it up a little bit more, but they certainly have the firepower to score 35-40 points per game, even in Miller’s absence.
2. Other Defensive Playmakers
The Broncos certainly have no shortage of defensive playmakers. Outside of Miller, you have one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in Champ Bailey, the leader of a star-studded secondary. Bailey is joined by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and one of the most underrated nickel corners in the league–Chris Harris. Rahim Moore was great last season despite his playoff mishap, and the secondary looks pretty solid.
The Broncos also have Wesley Woodyard, a team captain since 2009 who had a huge year last year. The Broncos also have high hopes for a few defensive linemen coming up. Derek Wolfe, the team’s top pick in 2012, had six sacks as a rookie and has had an awesome offseason. Robert Ayers, a first round pick in 2009, is stepping into the spot vacated by Elvis Dumervil. His teammates have spoken very highly of him and his growth may have finally reached a point that he can start giving the Broncos a boost in the pass rush department.
3. Shaun Phillips
Phillips is 32 and signed a very modest one-year deal, but his role may have just gotten a lot bigger. Initially signed to be Von Miller’s backup, he’s going to have to potentially step into a starting role for the Broncos right away. Last year, Denver had eight sacks through its first four games, so Phillips is going to have to find ways to create pressure for other teams.
4. The Rookies
The Broncos used their 2013 first round pick on Sylvester Williams, a guy who has a great first step and quickness off the ball. He might not be a double digit sack guy but he certainly is going to cause trouble for opposing teams.
The team also drafted pass rusher Quanterus Smith in the fifth round, and if he is healthy, there are a lot of people who think he can be a huge steal for the Broncos.
As much as the loss of Miller could hurt the Broncos, I don’t think it would be the end of the world. The team still has #18, and losing him would be a far worse scenario.