Do the Denver Broncos have Von Miller on a snap count? What is Miller’s threshold for usage on a Sunday afternoon? What is their goal here? We explore.
The Denver Broncos have a number of pass rushers that can rotate in and make a significant impact on a game, but there’s only one Von Miller.
That’s why it was surprising to hear head coach Vance Joseph talk about Miller’s snap count on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens as though it is, will be, or should be a normal thing.
For those who don’t know at this point, Miller was on the field for 49 of a possible 72 snaps, tied for the seventh-most snaps on the team with Derek Wolffe on the defensive side of the football. For those who don’t really care to do the math, this means Miller was on the field for 68 percent of the snaps defensively against Baltimore.
Joseph answered the question about Miller’s usage by saying this:
"“He played 50-plus snaps I think and we had 70 snaps in the game. That’s a normal tally for Von. If he we played 70 snaps and [he] played 50, that’s a good number.”(quotes via Broncos PR)"
Regardless if this is normal for the Broncos, it felt abnormal and to top it all off, three of Miller’s 49 snaps were wasted with him dropping into coverage, allowing a 12-yard touchdown reception on one of those three pass coverage reps.
So, Miller played 46 snaps out of 72 where he was actually doing what he’s great at doing, which is getting after the quarterback and terrorizing the running game. There are very few instances when it seems like it would be a good idea to drop Miller into coverage unless it works out as it did in the 2015 AFC Championship game when he intercepted a pass in coverage on Rob Gronkowski against the Patriots.
Those moments seem few and far in between, which begs the question — how often does Von Miller actually play? Is 65-70 percent of the game really normal for him? Is that really a good number as Joseph stated?
Since 2012 — excluding his injury-shortened 2013 season — Miller has played an average of 83.43 percent of the defensive snaps. Therefore, playing 68 percent of the snaps in a game with three of those snaps including a role in coverage is absolutely not normal for Miller, nor is it what’s most effective for the Broncos, obviously.
So far this season, Miller has played 76.8 percent of the Broncos’ defensive snaps, which if it holds would be the lowest percentage of snaps he will have participated in since 2015 (76.19). That team was obviously a bit different because of how ineffective the offense was, the defense was on the field a lot more of the time so Miller needed to be fresh for the end of games when he was Denver’s closer.
In 2017, Vance Joseph’s first season leading the Broncos, Miller averaged about 53 snaps per game, so 49 is not a terribly low number but it’s concerning that the Broncos would keep their best player on such a strict snap count when the defense was asked (or forced) to be on the field more than they would have otherwise preferred in this particular game.
There are situations where Miller might have to play 55-60 snaps, and that is something the Broncos need to be more mindful of,because having him on the field for 49 snaps and wasting three of them by dropping into coverage isn’t going to help this team win games.