The Broncos finally have their first win of the season after defeating the Chargers 20-13 on Sunday. It was a win for Denver, but it came without the defense getting a single sack on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio was asked about Von Miller’s performance against the Chargers even though the star pass-rusher didn’t have any sacks.
“He was close a few times. I thought his rush was okay. I think he’s capable of better, but he was coming free some and did help the pass defense in that way,” Fangio said.
Fangio still wants more from Miller, but what does that look like? I’ve looked at the advanced data from ESPN metrics powered by NFL Next Gen Stats and studied the film. Here’s my answer.
The advanced data shows that Miller is winning and creating pressure first on a good percentage of plays. We have to look no further than his Pass Rush Win Rate (PRWR). Miller has had 86 pass rush plays with a win or loss in 2019. Of those 86 plays, Miller has been the first to pressure the quarterback 23 times.
While Miller only has 2.0 sacks this year, he is disrupting plays in other ways. He’s getting to the passer quickly and that is causing disrupted dropbacks. In fact, Miller has been credited with two interceptions created by his pressure. He also has been credited with a whopping 12 incomplete passes caused by him getting after the quarterback.
Compare these numbers to that of Bears superstar Khalil Mack. Miller and Mack have near the same amount of pass rush plays after five games in 2019. Miller has 86 PRP, while Mack has 94 PRP so far this season. During that time, Mack has not been credited with a single interception based off his pressure and has only been credited with eight incomplete passes.
Miller stands up well to Mack in this comparison, but that can’t be said about every category.
It’s easy to see that Miller is regularly double teamed on the football field, but what is the actual rate of that happening? As aforementioned, Miller has had 86 pass rush plays with a win or loss in 2019. On 22.8 percent of those plays, he has been double teamed. That means everyone can’t say Miller is double-teamed all the time as that’s simply not true.
When Miller is double teamed, he needs to find a way to improve his numbers. He has a Pass Rush Win Rate vs. Double Team of just 4.5 percent.
Compare those numbers to Mack, a more powerful player, but a player who also gets more pressure when two blockers are on him. Mack has a PRWRvDT of 12.9 percent. He’s one of the most disruptive players in the league and does a good job of splitting blockers to get to the quarterback. Both Miller and Mack are double teamed at about the same rate, 23.8 percent for Mack and 23.0 percent for Miller.
It’s easy to see why Mack is more successful versus double teams – he’s about 20 pounds heavier than Miller. Mack weighs in around 269 pounds, while Miller is around 250 pounds on a good day. If the team wants Miller to be better versus double teams, he would have to bulk up as he’s done in years past.
So if Miller is going to be better, the team needs to have someone opposite of him as a threat to opposing offensive linemen.
So how does Miller improve his game? The answer is simple: He needs some help.
This is where undrafted rookie Malik Reed needs to step in and step up. Reed got his first sack last week against the Jaguars, but he didn’t have the same level of success against the Chargers.
In the first start of his NFL career, Reed played a career-high 62 snaps. That number was good for 88.6 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 5. He had two solo tackles but that was it as far as stats go.
Fangio commented on Reed’s performance.
“Overall, he did decent. He got about 60 plays, that’s a lot of plays for a guy that hadn’t been playing that much and he’s still on a special teams unit or two. I thought he did fine and I expect him to keep improving. It didn’t seem like the game was too big for him and he played hard, which he always does. The game is important to him, so overall, pleased,” Fangio said.
Reed is young and inexperienced, but the talent is there. The Broncos have a knack for finding undrafted talent and Reed is just the next in a long line of success stories that have come from the college free agent class.
In fact, just look what former Broncos linebacker Shaq Barrett is doing with the Buccaneers. He’s currently got the best PRWR (29.3 percent) in the entire league. Reed is not going to be Barrett-like as a rookie but the faster he can get closer to that the better it will be for the Broncos – and for Miller.
If you want Miller to be better, you have to minimize the number of times he’s double teamed. In order to do that, Miller must move around the formation or someone like Reed needs to emerge as a threat so opponents can’t spend all their resources slowing down Miller.
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