News & Analysis

PFF Closer Look: Denver's defense during the Von Miller era

Dec 10, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) dances next to nose tackle Zach Kerr (92) (right) following his sack in the second half against the New York Jets at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Since being the second overall pick in 2011, Denver Broncos edge defender Von Miller has lived in opposing backfields and terrorized quarterbacks at a rate unlike any other during his seven years in the NFL. Miller has led the Broncos in total quarterback pressures in all but one of his professional seasons and has averaged just over 77 QB pressures a season, including postseason pressure numbers.

With the retirement of Dwight Freeney and James Harrison, Miller is now sixth among active NFL players in career sacks and all others ahead of him have been in the league at least two additional seasons. Only twice in those seven seasons, his suspension-shortened 2013 season and last year, has Miller not been in the top 10 in sacks at his position.

In addition to getting the quarterback to the ground, Miller is a test case in showing how pressures are more stable year over year. The chart below shows his high level of consistent production:

Von Miller Pressures

*# of pressures includes playoff games

Year Miller’s # of QB Pressures (Hits, Hurries & Sacks) Pass-Rush Snaps per QB Pressure Miller’s Rank Among Edge Defenders Broncos’ Team QB Pressures Rank Best Teammate -QB Pressures
2011 70 (13 sacks) Pressure every 6.7 snaps 10th 22nd E. Dumervil – 52 pressures
2012 88 (18 sacks) 5.7 2nd 2nd E. Dumervil – 63 pressures
2013 41 (6 sacks) 6.2 52nd 1st S. Phillips – 53 pressures
2014 74 (15 sacks) 7.3 T-3rd 5th D. Ware -57 pressures
2015 105 (17 sacks) 5.5 2nd 1st D. Ware – 66 pressures
2016 79 (14 sacks) 6.0 T-4th 3rd S. Ray – 45 pressures
2017 83 (10 sacks) 5.7 1st 21st S. Barrett – 43 pressures


2011 was also the year John Elway took over football operations for the Broncos, and as you can see above, having a defense that consistently puts pressure on the quarterback has been a staple since Elway drafted Miller with his first pick. Opposite side edge defenders also have seen a boost with Miller occupying much of the offense's attention on his side. Miller's counterpart, whoever it has been, has accumulated at least 50 pressures in five of his seven seasons and at least 43 in every year he's been in the league.

Staying true to this focus, with the fifth pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Elway took North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb, PFF’s No. 13 overall player – and No. 2 ranked edge defender – on our big board.

Bradley Chubb Pressures

Here are Chubb’s pass-rush numbers from his final three seasons in college:

Year # of QB Pressures (Hits, Hurries & Sacks) Pass-Rush Snaps per QB Pressure Chubb’s Rank Among Edge Defenders
2015 35 (9 sacks) 8.6 74th
2016 53 (9 sacks) 7.1 23rd
2017 58 (10 sacks) 6.9 5th


In addition, in those final two seasons – 2016 & 2017 – Chubb had at least three QB pressures in 22 of his 25 total games.

Playing opposite Miller has given many those opportunities to flourish playing on the opposite side in Denver’s defense, see Elvis Dumervil, Demarcus Ware, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett above. Will Bradley Chubb’s consistent college production translate to the NFL? And can Chubb’s addition, along with the return of a healthy Ray, elevate Denver’s defense back in the top three in terms of generating pressure?

Almost surely, Elway and the rest of the organization sure hope so.

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