Bills questions: What's realistic to expect from Von Miller at age 33? – Buffalo News

Von Miller works on his moves at Buffalo Bills minicamp.
This is the fourth question in a series previewing Bills training camp. Today: What is realistic to expect from Von Miller as he enters camp at age 33?
Von Miller doesn’t leave much to chance when it comes to keeping his body in condition after 10 seasons in the NFL.
“I sit and talk to young guys, they ask me, ‘How do you do it?’” the Buffalo Bills’ defensive end said, referring to staying productive as a thirtysomething. “I’m like, ‘Bro, I honestly do everything that you possibly can do to keep your body fresh. Whenever I leave here, the facility, the rest of my day is getting ready for the next day, whether there’s massages, nutrition, whether that’s getting acupuncture, cold tub, cryo. It’s 2022, and we got so many different things that can help us recover. I’m doing them all.”
Cryotherapy, for those not on the cutting edge of sports conditioning, is cold therapy designed to reduce blood flow to a specific area, which can reduce inflammation and swelling, especially around joints.
“I’m doing them all trying to get an edge and trying to recover as fast as I can,” Miller said. “And that’s been my secret.”
Miller turned 33 in March. The Bills made a large bet that he can stay productive for at least the next three seasons, and maybe a few more. He signed a six-year contract worth $20 million a year, and he’s due to get $51.4 million guaranteed over the next three seasons.
“This is a six-year deal, so I’m looking forward to playing the whole thing,” Miller said at minicamp. “I’m trying to play the whole thing out. Tom Brady’s done it, Bruce Smith has done it. All the guys that I look up to when it comes to longevity in careers. So I just take it one day at a time, and I’m just gonna take whatever God gives me. My intention is to play the whole thing out. I’m a real sicko when you get to know me. My mindset is different.”
The Bills will get their first up-close look at Miller in pads at training camp at St. John Fisher College. He looked like he had a spring in his step during minicamp.
What are the odds he can stay as productive as ever in 2022? It’s a huge key to the Bills’ hopes.
Production at age 33 and beyond in the NFL is the exception to the rule. A total of 50 players posted more than 6.0 sacks in the NFL last season. Just one was age 33 or older. (Ex-Bill Mario Addison had 7.0 at age 34.)
The most elite pass rushers, however, tend to age well.
Miller enters 2022 with 115.5 sacks, which ranks No. 1 among active NFL players and is tied for 31st since 1960. (Sacks didn’t become an official statistic until 1982, but recent research has updated the numbers since 1960).
Of the top 20 all-time sackers, only three didn’t post a double-digit sack season beyond age 32. They were Deacon Jones, Lawrence Taylor and DeMarcus Ware. Most of them had multiple 10-plus sack seasons.
Bills Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, the all-time sack leader with 201, had 73.5 sacks after age 32. Reggie White, No. 2 all-time, had 53 after age 32. No. 4 Kevin Greene had 60.5. No. 5 Julius Peppers had 48.
The list goes on. Peppers, John Abraham, Dwight Freeney, Terrell Suggs and Cameron Wake all had eight or more sacks at age 35 or older over the past decade. Retired Bill Lorenzo Alexander had 12.5 sacks at age 33 in 2016.
MOST SACKS AFTER AGE 32 IN NFL
Player         Last season   Sacks
1. Coy Bacon           1981 75.5
2. Bruce Smith*       2003 73.5
3. Kevin Greene*     1999 60.5
4. Chris Doleman*   1999 60.0
5. Reggie White*     2000 53.0
6. Rickey Jackson*  1995 49.5
7. Julius Peppers     2018 48.0
8. Ed “Too Tall” Jones   1989 44.5
9. Alan Page*         1981 40.0
10. Carl Eller*        1979 43.0
(Since 1960)
Source: Pro Football Reference.
* – Member of Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I’m 33 but I honestly don’t feel 33,” Miller said. “I think mentally, once you start feeling old, it’s just done. I’ve been in the league a long time and when guys start complaining about, of course you’re gonna have injuries and stuff, but when guys start complaining about, man it’s cold out here. Or we got practice again today. Or just little things that I just try to stay out of. I try to keep my mind positive. Of course, I’m getting older. But I don’t feel 33 at all. The main thing is I don’t look 33 at all. When I’m running out here with the guys, I make it a point to show to my teammates and earn their trust that hey, I’m 33 years old but I can run with you. I can run with anybody and I’m healthy and I take care of my body.”
“He’s a two-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP, whatever he says you listen to it,” said Bills defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. “He has a lot of leadership and he also works hard, so it’s easy to do. You can’t say anything bad about him. Whatever he says, he’s been there, he’s done it, and he’s the best of the best.”
Ware, who is 13th on the all-time list with 138.5 sacks, won a Super Bowl with Miller in Denver in 2015. That was Ware’s age-33 season, and he posted 7.5 sacks. But then injuries forced Ware to retire just a year later.
“I don’t really compare just myself to other guys’ careers and what they do,” Miller said. “And honestly, DeMarcus is probably the only one. DeMarcus played 12 years, 138(.5) sacks. I need 23 more, but that’s the only guy. That’s really the only guy, and that’s because that’s my brother. But everybody else, I just try to stay in my lane, just try to stay focused, try to stay prayed up and I just take whatever God has given me.”
Miller had 9.5 sacks in the regular season in 2021, starting the year in Denver and finishing with the Los Angeles Rams. In four playoff games for the Rams, he had four sacks. He had a league-high 22 pressures in the playoffs, according to Pro Football Focus. That included two sacks and four other hurries in the Super Bowl win over Cincinnati.
“Really excited about Von being here,” said Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier at minicamp. “He shows that he still has flashes to be able to be a premier pass rusher as we watched him in practice. And we saw it on tape at the end of their season when he played even in the Super Bowl and their playoff stretch. He really gave them a lot down the stretch. So, we think there’s still a lot left in the tank. He’s a Hall of Fame caliber player, for sure. And we’re looking forward to him helping our pass rush and helping our defense overall.”
For most of Miller’s career, he has played a high rate of snaps. He played 80% of the defensive snaps for Denver in 2019. That’s not how the Bills operate. They play the defensive line in waves. Jerry Hughes led Bills defensive ends at 51.8% last year and 58.9% in 2020.
The Bills want Miller fresh when the game is on the line. In the fourth quarter and overtime last season, Miller was the second-highest graded pass rusher in the NFL, behind only the Rams’ Aaron Donald, according to Pro Football Focus.
“That subject was definitely part of the conversation when we were going through the process prior to signing him,” Frazier said. “His numbers have been way up in comparison to how we rotate the defensive linemen. So we talked about that, and we’ll see how it goes. I mean, we want him to be fresh in the fourth quarter.”
“I’m all for rotation and all that stuff, but when it’s crunch time, I have to be in the game,” Miller said. “I’m sure that coaches and everybody wouldn’t fight me on that. When it’s crunch time, I’m gonna be out there in the game.”
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Gaughan’s insight is featured in the “PlayAction” video series, providing analysis to get Bills fans ready for the next game. He is past president of the Pro Football Writers of America and served as a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector for 12 years.
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Von Miller works on his moves at Buffalo Bills minicamp.
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