ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Last year, Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller was one of several rookies who entered the 2011 season without the benefit of a full offseason.
But along with fellow rookies Aldon Smith and Marcell Dareus of the 49ers and Bills, respectively, Miller hardly looked like a player finding his way.
After Denver drafted him second overall last April, the rookie from Texas A&M burst onto the scene with six sacks in his first six games as a pro en route to the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Now with a year of experience and a full offseason under his belt, Miller said Wednesday that he expects 2012 to be even better, and not just for himself.
“Marcell Dareus, Aldon Smith, all those guys, I think the stars aligned right and we all had a great year,” Miller said. “I think we can top that this year, having OTAs and being with the team and playbooks, having all that stuff.”
Another young pass-rusher who took many fans by storm a season ago was defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants, who recorded 14 sacks in his second season, good enough for fifth-best in the NFL. Miller sought out Pierre-Paul this offseason in Miami, where the two devoted more attention to flexibility than physicality.
“I did a lot of yoga-type stuff,” Miller said. “I was down in Miami with Jason Pierre-Paul. That was the advice he gave me. He said it was a long season. I really didn’t do a lot of weight training. I just did yoga with him and hopefully I can have the type of season that he had last year.”
Miller said that all the players that worked out together this offseason benefitted from being around one another.
“I watch them just like they watch me. I was able to be around (Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker) DeMarcus Ware a little bit. When you’re around those guys, stuff just comes out, you don’t have to force that or ask them, ‘What are you doing in this situation?’” Miller said. “It just happens. Being around those guys hopefully was an experience that helped me as a player. I was happy to be around ‘JPP.’ Not too many players get to be in that situation. Hopefully I can have the type of season that he had last year. (Seeing him win the Super Bowl) is a lot of motivation, and that’s where we want to be.”
Miller added that he intends to not only improve on his rookie sack total of 11.5, but also shore up his understanding of his team’s defense.
“I’m my biggest critic,” Miller said. “I’m going to try to do a lot better than what I did last year. Hopefully I can cut down on all the mental errors that I had last year, the mental mistakes, and just start to be the player that I know that I can be, the player that the organization brought me in to be, that my teammates know I can be and that the fans know that I can be.”
Two other factors promise to help Miller improve upon his production as a rookie. For one thing, he said he’ll have the luxury of full health in both of his hands.
“It was tough enough to play with two hands, but to play with one-and-a-half hands, it was even more of a challenge," Miller said of playing with a cast over his thumb for the second half of the season. “It happened. Coach came to me, and said I couldn’t use that as an excuse. I’m hoping I can do some great things with two hands this year.”
Miller said he is also excited to work with new Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio because of the veteran coach’s ability to relate to his defenders.
“He has more insight into what we go through,” Miller said. “He was a player also. He might not be laid back to the outside world, but to us, he understands what we go through because he was a player himself. That’s our relationship. He gets it. He knows what we go through. He doesn’t add to any of that stuff. He’s a great coach.
"He’s going to put us in a lot of situations to be a successful defense this year, and hopefully we can get it done.”