Broncos' Von Miller asserts leadership during difficult stretch

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Criticism spares no one when a team has lost seven straight games.

The last time the Broncos were this bad, the Monkees were topping the charts with "I am a Believer" in 1967. Von Miller has emerged from the wreckage with another solid performance. However, he ranks as the team's highest-paid player. As such, even he is not immune to barbs as he owns only 8.5 sacks. 

The number tells almost none of the story for a player who continues to face double teams and schemes designed to stop him. However, with a big contract comes great responsibility. With the team spiraling, fans want to hear his voice. Thursday, Miller said the players believe in first-year coach Vance Joseph and insisted the locker room is not fracturing.

"We have a lot of stuff going on. But we have great leadership here. The guys we have leading this team (among the coaches and front office), they know a lot more about what's going on than I do. I am a locker room guy. I like to keep the locker room solid," Miller said. "We still have a solid locker room. We just need to find a way to win."

Depending on the metrics you prefer, Miller ranks among the top players at his position. He is on pace for 12.5 sacks and a career-high in tackles for a loss.

"Von is playing well. He's played really well in the run game. The pass game, everyone has a plan to block Von. He's being chipped and doubled every week," said Joseph, acknowledging Shaq Barrett will continue see time on first and second downs opposite Miller with Shane Ray dealing with wrist and leg issues. "I don't blame them. You can't let Von wreck your game plan. We have to move him around again and find some soft spots."

In a lighter moment at the end of his press conference, a reporter asked Von about the arrival of In-N-Out Burger in Colorado, specifically Colorado Springs. He admitted he enjoys the burgers. And he loves that the business has spread here. Alas, he won't be lining up in the 20-car deep drive-thru line. Von no longer eats fast food, explaining, "You can't put that in a Ferrari. I haven't fallen into that pit."

I assured him as sports journalists we live in that pit of misery. Dilly. Dilly.

Footnotes

Crazy thing about rookie cornerback Brendan Langley. He is a coachable kid trying to catch up fast. He is receiving a baptism by blowtorch. This, he told me, is the first football season of his life he's played only defense. He did not play defense in youth or high school football. And last year in college, he remained a two-way player as a receiver on offense until scouts told his Lamar coaches his future in the NFL was at corner. "It's no excuse, though. I am glad what happened last week happened. I can move on from it and start making plays," Langley said. ... Guard Ron Leary hasn't ruled out playing Sunday, but admitted he's concerned about going because of his back injury. He hasn't practiced the past two days. The injury began bothering him during the Oakland game. ... There remains a chance Derek Wolfe will land on season-ending IR with a neck injury. The club plans to be careful, and Wolfe has been dealing with this neck issue for several weeks. .... He could become the corresponding roster move when the team activates a cornerback, likely Marcus Rios, later this week. ... The NFL fined Darian Stewart $24,309 for his hit on Oakland's Amari Cooper. "I absolutely will appeal," Stewart told Denver7. 

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