CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Von Miller expects more out of Von Miller. It was one of the first things he said when slipping into third person.
Miller has evolved as a player and as a leader. As a veteran on a team with a coaching staff different than when he was drafted, Miller has quietly morphed into more than a goofball. He is a beloved teammate. He knows the game on a deeper level thanks to film study and lockering next to mentor DeMarcus Ware for a third season.
"I am a different Von," Miller said. "My expectations are higher."
Miller can do things other players can't. He fooled New England quarterback Tom Brady in coverage, dropping back and picking off a pass from a place he should never have been during the AFC Championship Game. He turned tackles into pylons and excelled in coverage downfield in the Super Bowl. Miller's athleticism remains breathtaking. He figures to get doubled, and chipped with protection sliding toward him on Thursday night after he manhandled right tackle Mike Remmers. But it's no guarantee Carolina can stop him.
Miller makes statement plays. His strip sack in Super Bowl 50 remains the defining image of the Broncos' first championship since 1998. Now comes the hard part: Doing it again. Ware believes Miller is ascending, a point coordinator Wade Phillips expanded on Monday.
"He seems to me more comfortable at everything, more focused," Phillips said. "He wanted to prove to everybody that maybe he's the best player. He was the MVP in the Super Bowl, but I think his next goal is to be the defensive player of the year."
Miller posted 2.5 sacks and forced two fumbles in the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 upset. Wrecking ball is an apt description of his work in Santa Clara, Calif. The Panthers had no answer for him. It's hard to imagine their game plan won't center on Miller, which should leave Ware, a situational pass rusher, in line for one-on-one matchups. Regardless, Miller must be a factor for the Broncos, 3-point underdogs in most books, to win their 16th home opener in their last 17 games.
"You never ask Steph Curry, 'How many 3-pointers did he shoot uncontested. Being chipped, having the tight end in the ideal rush position and all the funny different blocks that come with the game, that's part of it," Miller said. "I still have to find a way to be effective."