Von Miller displayed his dominance to the Oakland Raiders and a nationwide audience last night. Again. This has been a habit of sorts for Miller, who effectively crushed the Raiders’ slim upset hopes by sacking Carson Palmer and forcing the embattled quarterback to fumble near his own goal-line.
Miller won Defensive Rookie of the Year (AP) in 2011, but he has been even better this season. In 2011 he collected 11.5 sacks, this year 16. Miller has also made forcing fumbles a key part of his game, doing so six times this year (five in his last five games) after forcing two fumbles in his rookie season.
Pro Football Focus, a site that claims to watch and analyze each player’s performance on every snap, lists Miller (72.1) as a close second in their overall scoring system among all defenders, behind J.J. Watt (73.7). If you remove penalties from the equation, Miller (docked 4.6 points due to seven penalties) would be in the lead over the Houston defensive end (whose score is docked by 1.5 points for four penalties, one of which was either declined or off-setting). There’s no doubt that Miller and Watt are the front-runners for Defensive Player of the Year at this point.
Miller is incredible as a run stopper, and is far and away better as an overall player than the 49ers’ Aldon Smith, at least according to PFF (Smith’s overall score of 15.0 isn’t even the highest among OLBs on his own team, as Ahmad Brooks is listed at 18.1).
However, if you’ve read this far you already know this: Smith is the league’s preeminent sack artist. His 31.5 sacks over the first two years of his career is an NFL record, 0.5 ahead of Reggie White. Smith has 17.5 in one fewer game than Miller, helped by a 5.5-sack performance against Chicago that had to be seen to be believed. After that game, Smith told the media he’d probably text Miller after the game. There’s clearly a “can you top this” element between Smith (who was named Defensive Rookie of the Year by the PFW/PFWA) and Miller, so it one can probably expect Smith to be quite motivated on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins … and not just because Smith is five sacks away from tying Michael Strahan’s all-time single season record, a mark which could sway some Defensive Player of the Year voters.
Miami has only allowed 25 sacks this season, which ranks them 11th in the NFL. However, Smith’s chance at a big game increased when the Dolphins put left tackle Jake Long on injured reserve with a left triceps injury. Long wasn’t having a great year by any means (he’s currently ranked 47th out of 75 qualified tackles according to PFF), but no Long means no problem for Smith. Overmatched rookie Jonathan Martin (ranked 69th on that list mentioned earlier) moves to left tackle and Nate Garner (who has only played 71 snaps) should start at right tackle.
Smith showed against the Bears that he can devour subpar offensive lines, and the Dolphins only have one good o-lineman in Mike Pouncey (the league’s No. 2 center according to PFF). Smith won’t have to worry about tangling with Pouncey, and the 49ers’ coaching staff should be quite familiar with Martin from his Stanford days.
Ryan Tannehill is pretty much screwed, in other words. It would be fairly surprising if the Dolphins’ rookie quarterback doesn’t get tackled behind the line of scrimmage by Smith (Aldon or Justin) at least a couple times on Sunday.
I drew a name randomly from the contest on Wednesday, and Mary Walton won a free large pizza from Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria!
For your chance to win a large thin crust (any toppings) pizza from Amici’s of your own, just do the following:
Predict the number of sacks for Aldon Smith against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon. Closest to the correct total wins.
For an idea of how Smith has done this year on a weekly basis, here is a tally of how many sacks he has registered in each game: