Adam Schefter reported this morning that Von Miller is facing a four-game suspension for “violating NFL policy.” Regardless of whether that suspension comes from violations to the personal conduct policy or for the use of PEDs or other illegal substances, the outcome will likely retain the same. However, outside of the preseason, no team in the NFC West will face off against the Denver Broncos. So, how would the suspension of Von Miller for the opening quarter of the season effect the St. Louis Rams?
Last season, Von Miller was, by far, the most dominate 4-3 outside linebacker in the game of football. While he did not play the typical role within the scheme in Denver, he did manage average tackle numbers and played relatively well in coverage, including snagging an interception. However, his 18.5 sacks, 15 hits on the quarterback, and 52 pressures top any player at his position by a wide margin, and slot Miller as the 2012 overall leader in total pressures on the quarterback.
As a result of his dominance, the Denver Broncos were able to match the St. Louis Rams in team sacks last season, sharing the “Sack Title” after accumulating an impressive 52.0 total sacks. However, unlike the Rams, who had three players with at least 7.0 sacks, the Broncos relied heavily on two players to rake in the takedowns. Von Miller, of course, contributed 18.5 of those sacks, while Elvis Dumervil contributed 11.0 sacks; meaning that the duo combined for 56.7% of the total teams sacks last season.
Well, Elvis Dumeril, thanks to the misuse of a fax machine, is now with the Baltimore Ravens. So, the loss of Miller would essentially start the Broncos in a massive hole, at least if they are hoping to repeat as the champions in the “sack race.”
With the addition of Alec Ogletree into the second level of the defense and the “replacing” of both Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell with significantly younger and faster players, the St. Louis Rams should now be the odds-on favorite to lead the league in sacks this season. However, the suspension could leave an opening for a more “individualistic” goal to be reached next season…
On top of the defensive additions previously mentioned, there are several other key changes to the St. Louis Rams defense. For starters, Michael Brockers should be on the field for the entire year, after leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the defensive line for the first quarter of the 2012 regular season. Secondly, the entire defense should be more comfortable, with familiarity among the players and with the system, led by James Laurinaitis. Lastly, and most importantly, the St. Louis Rams will now actually have a defensive coordinator, after attempting a coordinator-by-committee approach last season in the wake of the Greg Williams’ scandal. What does that mean?
Well, added experience, more focused coaching, and upgraded talent are three ways to significantly improve a defensive unit. For one player in particular, the “revamping” could be a just what the doctor ordered…
In 2012, Chris Long finished the season with 11.5 sacks, down from 13.0 the season before when he finished 7th overall in the NFL. Despite taking a double- or, sometimes, triple-team on every snap, Long still ranked in the Top 5 overall in pressures on the quarterback for the second consecutive season. Despite the occasional drought, Long did finish the 2012 season strong, ending with 4.0 sacks in a two-game stretch. This bounty of upgrades could finally free-up the young start to truly breakout as one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL. This all comes on the heals of the recent announcement that the NFL would be start the Deacon Jones Award, honoring the league leader in sacks. There has been a lot of nostalgic talk about a player from the Rams’ organization bringing home the hardware in the opening year of the award. With Miller, an elite pass rusher, out of the running for an extended period of time, it could bring one Rams’ chances of taking home the trophy that much closer to reality.