The superlatives from the Jets about Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller were all about respect.
Come Sunday afternoon, the respect will turn to something else: the need to stop one of the best pass rushers in the league.
Miller enters Sunday’s game tied for ninth in the NFL with nine sacks and has picked up 18 quarterback hits and 14 tackles for loss. He also has seven stops for no gains this season. In the last three weeks, he has three tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and one sack.
It’s not about sacks coming in bunches for Miller, but becoming a disruptive force.
So how do you stop him?
“He’s a huge headache,” Todd Bowles said. “We have a lot of guys over there who are huge headaches, not just him. He’s a heck of a ballplayer — one of the best in the league.”
But how do you stop him?
“You got to know where he is at all times,” running back Matt Forte said. “Von is a premier pass rusher, if not the best in the league. He’s very slippery, quick off the ball, and we’re playing at their stadium. He’s going to get a jump on the snap count, and when he’s out there, we got to know which side he’s on. Chipping and all this other stuff you do to control the pass rusher is going to be important.”
There are several ways to stop Miller, and it comes with a cost.
You could slide a guard down to help the tackle, but that leaves the center one-on-one with a rushing nose tackle or blitzing linebacker from the inside.
A tight end can offer assistance with a chip block, but that’s one fewer receiver on the field.
Keeping a running back near the quarterback on Miller’s side is another way to slow him down. If Miller slips past a tackle, that running back is a last resort to prevent a sack.
In two career games against the Jets, Miller has 3 1⁄2 sacks.
The main man employed to stop Miller is right tackle Brandon Shell. Bowles praised the work of the second-year tackle from South Carolina this past week, especially after he took on elite outside linebacker Justin Houston last week. Houston, who had 8 1⁄2 sacks and 14 tackles for loss going into the game, had no tackles and one quarterback hurry in the Chiefs’ loss to the Jets.
Shell is facing someone similar in Miller, who is tied for seventh among active players in career sacks (82 1⁄2). If Miller gets a sack Sunday, he will reach double-digits for the sixth time in his seven-year career.
“It’s dope,” Miller said of possibly getting his 10th sack. “It’s scary, really. I’ve been in the league a long time.”
With or without help, Shell is determined to slow Miller down.
“Just got to play and not going to look for a way out and I’m going to play it like I play regularly,” Shell said. “He’s a great player, but I just got to prepare for him like it’s any other game.”
The personalities and the resumes of the two players couldn’t be more different.
Miller, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, is a five-time Pro Bowler, a three-time All-Pro and the 2015 Super Bowl MVP.
He has a boisterous personality that has helped him gain numerous endorsements. He was a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.”
Shell, a 2016 fifth-round pick from South Carolina, is soft-spoken with a nice sense of humor. When two reporters approached him to talk about the Broncos game, he joked, “The only reason people talk to me is when I face somebody good.”
The Jets will need Shell to be somebody good Sunday against one of the better pass rushers of his generation. It’s no easy task, but it’s one that he’s ready for.
“He’s very quick off the ball,” Shell said. “I’ve been watching some tape, just seeing the times he does get off the ball. Is he really offside or just getting a jump on the ball? He’s a great athlete.”
MILLER IN 2017