Alexander Johnson and Von Miller ranked among top 10 at their position by PFF

Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) celebrates his 100th career sack at Empower Field at Mile High.
Sep 29, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) celebrates his 100th career sack at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos have the foundation of what could be one of the league’s best linebacking units, with Von Miller, Alexander Johnson, and Bradley Chubb leading the way.

A narrative started to build after Miller didn’t reach double-digit sacks last season, that he was over the hill, but his on-tape performance and other analytics that measure pass rush production disagree. While his sack production dipped from 16 to 9 from 2018 to 2019, his number of quarterback hits stayed the same, and his hurries and total pressures each went up by more than 10.

“Miller would probably be the No. 1 player on this list in any other year, but he is coming off by far the worst season of his career,” Pro Football Focus analyst Sam Monson wrote after ranking him as the league’s fourth-best edge rusher. “And at 31 years old, it’s fair to at least wonder if this is the start of a decline or just a bump along the road. Miller began his NFL career with eight consecutive PFF overall grades above 90.0 before not just dipping below that mark last year but dipping below 80.0, as well. He still had 77 total pressures on the season, but a far greater percentage of them were unblocked or cleanup plays and he had fewer decisive wins than usual, which helps explain why his sack total dipped. Miller is ranked too low here if he bounces back — but for the first time in his career, that’s a question that needs to be asked.”

Chubb didn’t make PFF’s list, but Johnson was ranked as the league’s ninth-best inside linebacker by the analytics group. Johnson’s first season starting was incredibly impressive considering the time he spent away from the game, and he should only continue to improve.

“Johnson was on precisely no one’s radar heading into last season. As a 27-year-old undrafted free agent who hadn’t yet taken an NFL snap on defense, why would he have been,” Monson wrote. “His performance last season certainly changed that. He made his first appearance in Week 5 against the Los Angeles Chargers and turned in a 91.9 PFF grade for the game — a sign of things to come. Johnson is a bigger linebacker by today’s NFL standards at nearly 250 pounds, and he used that size to his advantage in the run game where he posted a 91.4 run-defense grade for the season. He wasn’t exactly a playmaker in coverage, with just one combined interception and pass breakup, but he was far from a liability. Johnson’s 76.3 coverage grade ranked 10th among qualifiers at the position. He’ll look to show that 2019 was no one-year fluke as a key part of the Broncos defense in 2020.”

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