CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Von Miller stepped out of the door to acknowledge the compliment.
I told him he looked stronger. Understand Miller possesses the ideal pass-rush body -- long arms with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle legs. Nonetheless, he appears thicker than last April when he wandered across my TV screen. That's because he is.
"This time a year ago I was at (an amusement) park," Miller told me of his activity between "Dancing With the Stars" and holding out for the longterm contract he ultimately received. "I wasn't lifting. I was dancing. I am able to lift now."
Miller keeps an eye on the show. Miller became a fan favorite, and that can be critical since scores do not always save contestants as Monday revealed. Heather Morris, a former star on "Glee" and a one-time backup dancer, was voted off despite receiving a perfect score while performing a rumba.
"I think they look at the entire week of practice and the competition," Miller said. "I don't know what the exact formula is."
For the Broncos, it remains simple. Von, um, devour quarterbacks. When Miller finds ways into the backfield, the Broncos discover victories. The rush defense must improve, especially with first month games against Dallas and Oakland. But Miller and crew like what they've seen in the admittedly small sample size of two practices. Cornerback Aqib Talib senses a "greater sense of urgency." All-Pro Chris Harris Jr. insisted he could "feel the juice. Everybody has a pep in their step."
Add that edge with players taking ownership, and it can become a powerful dynamic.
"We police ourselves in the locker room. We know what a good practice looks like. We know what a bad practice looks like. Nobody has to come and tell us. We have great coaches, so they’re going to stay on top of that as well. We have a great veteran core in the locker room," Miller said. "Everything is able to run a whole lot smoother when you have those pieces in place.”
Miller is prepared to assume a larger leadership role. He has long been a binding force. He mentors young players, and his success could hinge partly on the continued development of Shane Ray, who will replace the retired DeMarcus Ware, and Shaq Barrett.
"Shane is looking great out there. He looks like a veteran linebacker that everybody wants him to be. It’s going to be a big year for him. He’s been saying it and you can feel the energy coming off of him each and every single day. Not only him, but Shaq, too," Miller said. "It’s going to be a big year for both of those guys. I’m excited."
Two days into practice, Emmanuel Sanders could not wipe the smile off his face with sandpaper. New coordinator Mike McCoy’s offense offers shades of the Broncos three seasons ago. That’s when Sanders set career highs in catches (101) and (1,404 yards).
"Obviously, we’re going to throw the ball a lot more. There are a lot of underneath routes. Today we were able to throw the ball down the field. I think Bennie Fowler and Paxton (Lynch) connected on a deep ball. I think he scored even though they didn’t give it to us," Sanders said. "I remember his offense from 2014. I labeled it, ‘Wide Receiver Heaven.' It’s very pass happy and that’s everything as a receiver you could want.”