He was the best talent on the board at No. 2 overall, and for the first 12 games of the season, he did not disappoint.
He wreaked havoc all over the field, recording 10.5 sacks in those games, and was hard to contain. Every week it seemed like Von was improving, getting better and better.
In the games when he was healthy, he made 54 tackles—after the injury he had just six. Despite his late-season struggles, he still earned Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011.
The drop-off late in the season was noticeable. He was easily contained. He was getting off of blocks. He was not making a big difference on the field.
Most of those struggles you can attribute to the fact that he was playing football with just one hand. The giant club he had for a hand protected his injured right thumb.
When speaking to reporters recently about his thumb, he told The Denver Post, “It was already hard enough playing football with two hands, so playing football with one and a half hands, it was pretty tough. I had a great season last year with the cast on.”
I would beg to differ. Miller really struggled after getting a cast on his thumb. It hurt the rest of the defense without the added pass rush he provided.
They put up more than 40 points on the Broncos defense both times. Brady averaged over 340 passing yards. The Broncos failed to record a single sack in the divisional round of the playoffs and had just two in the Week 15 matchup.
Miller underwent surgery to remove the pins from his thumb on January 16, just two days after the playoff loss to the Patriots.
Miller is a tough guy.
Despite the pain, the cast and the ligament damage, he refused to miss a game during the season. When he spoke with reporters about where he was now he says he still has some recovery to do: “It’s about 85 percent right now. I’m 100-percent positive that when the season starts I won’t have any problems out of it.”
Again, Miller appears to be the eternal optimist, but the reality is he has been tested on the field. He very may well be a 100 percent by the start of the 2012 season, but it isn’t a given. I am surprised at how long it has taken already to recover from this injury.
Also, I can’t help but assume the worst—Miller may never be the same after this injury.