You can already picture the two of them facing off in the “who’s the best pass rusher alive” conversation for several years. Von Miller and Aldon Smith are clearly the best two defensive rookies in the NFL this season, and are both already in the top 10 in sacks this season.
As for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, Von Miller is still by far the frontrunner. While Smith has made the most of his opportunities (predominantly as a de facto defensive end in nickel packages), Miller has played more downs, tackled more players and forced one more fumble.
Miller was the second player chosen overall in the NFL Draft, and a more well-known prospect than Smith before the season started.
It also hasn’t hurt that Miller has raised his level of performance at the same time far more people are focusing on the Denver Broncos, what with the whole Tim Tebow circus. That includes a 3-game stretch where Miller made 20 solo tackles, assisted on 6 others and had 4 sacks in wins over the Chiefs, Jets (on national TV) and Chargers.
Then Miller suffered ligament damage in his thumb against San Diego, an injury which required surgery and forced him to miss last week’s game against Minnesota.
With that injury, Smith’s window opened. Not a lot, but enough to at least give him a shot at DROY. How could this unlikely scenario play out?
First, Miller needs to tweet more stuff like this in order to upset the media establishment through the use of foul language:
Okay, I was kidding there. What Miller really needs to do is allow his thumb injury (which he expects to play through this Sunday when the Broncos host Chicago) to keep him from accumulating any more sacks. None. 10.5 sacks now, next week and at the end of the season. And if Miller could stop with the 5-tackles-per-game thing, that would help, too.
Then, Smith needs to make the last four games of the regular season count — maybe run some 1.5-sack games together and finish at 14.5 (Jevon Kearse’s rookie sack record) or higher. There’s no way he’ll catch up to Miller in total tackles with this much time left, but tying or breaking a glamourous record like Kearse’s would give Smith some buzz.
Also, Smith needs to go crazy against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week from Monday. He already has a safety this season, so perhaps grabbing his first interception and returning it for a touchdown would be a nice touch.
It might sound borderline ludicrous to propose that Smith can climb past Miller on the DROY charts, but remember when Andrew Luck was considered a lock for the Heisman a month ago? Now Miller says inviting anyone other than Robert Griffin III to the Heisman ceremony is “#UNNECESSARYSHIT,” and he’s probably right!
So Aldon, if you want to take home the same award Patrick Willis won after the 2007 season, just keep playing like you did on Sunday against the Rams. And most importantly, do your best to knock Ben Roethlisberger to the Candlestick turf repeatedly on MNF.
Also, feel free to keep it up with that “non-celebration” thing you had going on against St. Louis. The resulting media attention can be a valuable thing!