Von Miller gets top spot in AP’s outside linebacker rankings
DENVER (AP) — With his Cardinals preparing to face the Cowboys this weekend, Arizona coach Bruce Arians was asked what he might take away from the Denver Broncos’ bashing of Ezekiel Elliott.
“Well, if I could have Von Miller,” Arians deadpanned, “I’d be happy.”
His exceptional blend of pass-rushing and run-stopping skills puts Miller atop the AP’s top 10 outside linebackers by a wide margin. In voting by Pro Football Hall of Fame member James Lofton and 10 AP football writers, Miller crushed the competition much like he creams tackles, tight ends and quarterbacks .
Miller beat out Kansas City’s Justin Houston and Atlanta’s Vic Beasley for top billing. Miller received nine first-place votes in a 10-points-to-one-point system and he placed second and third on the two other ballots for 107 total points.
His point total was the same as Tom Brady received in the quarterback rankings two weeks ago, but his nine first-place votes beat out Brady’s eight.
Houston and Beasley each received one first-place vote. Houston finished with 70 points and Beasley 60.
Moreover, Miller was the only player mentioned on all 11 ballots at a position that is especially deep and now commands quarterback-like contracts such as the $114.5 million deal Miller signed two summers ago .
“All the guy does is sack quarterbacks and blow up offensive game plans on a weekly basis,” said the AP’s Dennis Waszak Jr., based in New York. “And he can dance a little, too. He’s the ultimate prototype among active players for teams looking for a pass-rushing outside linebacker.”
With his public persona burnished by all the TV appearances and commercials he did following his MVP performance in Super Bowl 50, Miller has become more than just a star football player but a bona fide celebrity and cultural icon complete with trademark dance moves and outsized eyeglasses.
“He’s got the speed, the accolades, the statistics, the Super Bowl ring and the endorsements — oh, and some cool specs,” said the AP’s Dave Campbell, based in Minneapolis.
Those specs, by the way, are prescription.
“Yeah, they’re real,” Miller said. “I’m blind. I’m like Velma from Scooby Doo without my glasses.”
Lofton ranked Beasley ahead of Miller, calling the Falcons’ young star the “best pure pass rusher” in the NFL, and the AP’s Teresa Walker, based in Nashville, put Houston atop of her list, saying “not only does he look healthy, he seems better than ever.”
Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs placed fourth and Dallas’ Sean Lee fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were the Chargers’ Melvin Ingram, the Cardinals’ Chandler Jones, the Buccaneers’ Lavonte David, the Seahawks’ K.J. Wright and the Texans’ Whitney Mercilus.
“That’s a dope list,” Miller said Friday, adding, “Melvin Ingram should be much higher. He gets sacks every week.”
Dubow agreed, placing Ingram just behind Miller and ahead of his third-place linebacker, Houston, whom he noted is, “just another of the elite pass rushers in the AFC West.”
“Ingram is living up to the big contract he got this past offseason and combines with Joey Bosa to give the Chargers a lethal pass rushing duo,” said Dubow.
Just missing out on the top 10 were Clay Matthews of the Packers and Thomas Davis of the Panthers. In all, 27 outside linebackers received votes.
In last week’s rankings Le’Veon Bell edged out Elliott in the running back rankings .
Miller, a five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and two-time runner-up for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has 75½ career sacks and ranks third in NFL history with .84 sacks per game, trailing only the late Reggie White (.85) and J.J. Watt (.89).
Miller is “hands down, the best linebacker in the game: inside, outside or upside-down,” said the AP’s Barry Wilner, based in New York.
Just shy of 35, Suggs is the dean of the list, but as the AP’s Simmi Buttar, based in New York, put it, he’s “having a throwback season so far. Big reason the Ravens are 2-0.”
“Looks like Suggs is ready for an explosive season leading the Ravens’ D,” Wilner added.
EDITOR’S NOTE - The Associated Press is ranking the top 10 players at a different position every week of the NFL season, based on votes by Pro Football Hall of Famer James Lofton and AP football writers Simmi Buttar, Dave Campbell, Schuyler Dixon, Josh Dubow, Howard Fendrich, Rob Maaddi, Arnie Stapleton, Teresa M. Walker, Dennis Waszak Jr., and Barry Wilner. This feature will move on Fridays.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
This story has been updated to correct Von Miller’s total points from 106 to 107.