ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos will welcome back Von Miller with a 6-0 record if they take care of business against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars.
Just because they’ve handled their business doesn’t mean they haven’t sorely missed their suspended All-Pro linebacker.
Without Miller to command double teams and pester the passer like he did while racking up 30 sacks in his first two seasons, the Broncos find themselves ranked dead last in the league against the pass.
Despite a No. 1 ranking against the run, they own the 29th-best defense overall, hardly the formula for a championship even with Peyton Manning’s terrific start.
“You want to win. But winning these games doesn’t put a ring on our fingers,” Champ Bailey said. “I mean, we’ve got to get better. We know that. That’s what it boils down to: how good are we going to get?”
Miller will have a lot to say about that.
During his six-game drug suspension, he was banned from the practice field but not the weight room, and it’s obvious as he struts around shirtless in the locker room that he has a thicker torso and biceps.
“I’m like, ‘Von, you look like you almost might just play D-end,” teammate Chris Harris said.
Miller said last summer that he was undersized and “that’s always been a goal for me is to be bigger, stronger, faster,” so he wanted to get up to 260 pounds, five more than last year and 23 more than 2011, when he won the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
To that end, he spent some time during his suspension working with a personal trainer, which Harris said was a message to his teammates about Miller’s determination to atone for his mistakes.
Miller will have to shake off the rust and regain his cardiovascular conditioning and it’s likely he’ll need plenty of breathers when he makes his 2013 debut at Indianapolis on Oct. 20. But his presence is expected to raise everybody else’s game because of the attention he commands.
“Von Miller is our guy,” Harris said. “We can’t wait to have him.”