ENGLEWOOD—Von Miller isn’t starting the 2017 season with any individual goals.
Sure, he’d like to become NFL Defensive Player of the Year one of these seasons after twice finishing second, last year by one vote to Oakland’s Khalil Mack.
But he didn’t write it down because those types of honors happen through work, through performance, through a little bit of luck of not having another great defensive player have a career year.
“I had one goal in 2017,’’ Miller said. “I wanted to be team captain.’’
Goal accomplished. Miller and cornerback Aqib Talib are the Broncos’ two defensive captains this season following a vote of the players this week.
Miller, who is entering his seventh NFL season, and Talib, who is in his 10th year, are captains for the first time.
With captainship comes the responsibility of making the occasional speech. And there can be different settings for the big talks. There is the fired-up, on-field speech a few minutes prior to the game.
Brian Dawkins and Al Wilson were the best at those types of motivational speeches.
And there is the team-meeting speech. No one ever did it better than DeMarcus Ware the night before Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California.
“What you like to hear my pregame speech?’’ Miller said. (Yes, we do.) “I’m all about vibes. I try to take advantage of vibes. The good thing about being paired up with Aqib Talib, he’s going to speak his mind. This will be a great presidential camp. Miller and Talib together, Talib and Miller. It’s just great. It’s Fire and Ice. Talib is always going to tell it exactly how it is.
“Me, I like to message the situation and do whatever it takes. I always like to put sarcasm in any type of situation.’’
Speaking of pairings, Miller lost his outside linebacker complements. Ware retired and first-round talent Shane Ray will miss the first half of the season with a left wrist injury.
In their place is Shaq Barrett, who showed promise in 2015 but had just 1.5 sacks last year, and Kasim Edebali, who also slipped from an encouraging 2015 to 1 sack last season.
More than ever, opponents like the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night figure to double-team, if not have a third player chip Miller on his way to the quarterback. All that attention means Miller could play his best ball and still wind up with, say, 8 sacks in 2017.
“I just try to be dominant,’’ Miller said. “You can be dominant in other ways. It’s not always about getting sacks. You can always make your presence felt.
“You know I’ve had games where I come out with two tackles and I’ve been the most dominant player in the game. Especially at my position, I’ve got a unique position where I can force others to make plays, and force the game plan to go somewhere else. As long as I’m doing that, I’ve got a talented defense that can take advantage of any opportunity, any mistake that an offense makes.
“If I getting double or triple teamed, Shaq is going to make plays. Derek Wolfe is going to make plays. We’ve got a young, D-tackle, Tyrique (Jarrett) he’s going to make plays. Brandon (Marshall) and Todd Davis, all those guys. I haven’t even mentioned the No Fly Zone. All those guys are going to make plays. I’ve just got to do my part to push the offensive hand and put these guys in great situations.’’
In many ways, Miller has always been a team leader. He slipped off the field in 2013, but even in difficult times he always propped up, and never was critical of, a teammate.
Like so many stars in the 21st century, Miller will talk about himself in the third person. But he is also one to unite and carry a theme of ‘us’ rather than ‘me.’
“I do a lot of talking all the time,’’ he said. “I feel like I have that connection with all my players in that locker room. When Brian Dawkins spoke, everybody listened. I talk all the time. So, I always have that connection with everybody all the time. When we go into a game everybody knows exactly where I stand, I know exactly where everybody else stands. A great leader always has that ability to stand up and have a speech to talk about this. But for me it will all be repetitive. It’s the same thing me and ‘Lib talked about at the lunch table. Or it’ll be the same thing that me and Roby talked about inside the meeting room. Same thing that me and Connor McGovern talked about it with my foundation.
“I’ve always had those deep, intimate talks with each and every one of my players, so whenever that time comes we’re already on the same page.’’