Bills' Von Miller on pass rush strategy: 'I honestly feel like I’m on offense' – Buffalo News

Buffalo Bills linebacker Von Miller waves to fans after the Bills 42-15 win over the Denver Broncos at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. 
Von Miller’s resume is filled with defensive awards. His name is attached to an annual Pass Rush Summit. He is all but synonymous with sacks, and he was once the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
But when the Buffalo Bills’ famed pass rusher describes his style of play, there’s a twist.

When the Bills take the field Sunday to start training camp at St. John Fisher University, they believe Miller will be the missing piece to get them to the Super Bowl. There’s some sense of serendipity: Miller spent months thinking he’d be drafted by the Bills in 2011. But instead, his path took him elsewhere, shaping him at each stop. Miles from Buffalo, he grew up, he grew attached. He was traded away, he broke down, he started over. Now, he’s starting over again, but this time, it is on his terms.
“I honestly feel like I’m on offense,” Miller told The Buffalo News. “I feel like I’m on offense whenever I’m rushing, and the offensive lineman is on defense. He’s trying to stop me from getting to the quarterback. The quarterback is my touchdown.
“There’s all different ways that I can get there. And he’s trying to stop me. I’m not trying to stop him, even though I’m on defense. And I’m just trying to do whatever it takes – spin, dip, rip, bullrush, shock and shed, power – whatever it takes to get there.”
When Miller takes the field Thursday, for the league’s season opener and his first game with the Buffalo Bills, he’ll have come full circle in a very short period of time. The star edge rusher voluntarily left the defending Super Bowl champions and now will face the Rams on the same field where he captured a second Super Bowl title just seven months ago.

Miller says he doesn’t feel like he’s 33. He doesn’t think he plays like he’s 33. The dominant pass rusher thinks he still has plenty to give.
Miller sat down with the Buffalo News to break down his pass rushing philosophy and some plays from the last time he played at SoFi Stadium. When he lines up against his former team, Miller will showcase why the Bills brought him in.
He likens himself to a striker in soccer. It is a mindset he’s held for years.
“I always felt like I was on attack,” Miller said. “I’m attacking every single play. Even though I’m on defense, I’m not in a defensive mindset or a defensive position. I’m not sitting back waiting and reacting to them. They’re sitting back waiting and reacting to me.
“And that’s the advantage for me.”
It is an advantage that he has held over opponents since he entered the league in 2011. Since then, Miller’s 115.5 sacks lead all active players. He’s tied with Charles Haley for the most Super Bowl sacks, with 4.5 each. Haley played in five Super Bowls. Miller has played in two.

OK, this guy knows how to get to the quarterback. It’s proven,” Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane said. “He’s done it 115 or whatever times. We don’t have that on our roster, and this was the only way to get it.”
In his most recent title game, Miller had two sacks, totaling a loss of 16 yards, and six pressures, per PFF. The Rams as a team sacked Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow seven times.
But Miller was also proud of plenty of plays that didn’t result in a sack.
“I think that last drive on defense … I didn’t get a sack or anything like that. But I had some really good rushes,” Miller said. “Probably my best rushes throughout that whole entire year, my best rushes in a long time were in that last drive.”
Some of that had to do with being freed up by the situation. The Bengals trailed 23-20, the eventual final score, when they got the ball back with 1:25 left to play and two timeouts. Miller also felt the weight of what was at stake propel him and his teammates on defense.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane watched the game from his house, not knowing at the time that 6 1/2 weeks later, Miller would be signing a six-year deal with Buffalo. Beane sensed that late-game synergy for the Rams defense as well.

Von Miller has been a staple on the NFL Network Top 100 during his Hall of Fame career, but did not make it in 2021.
“(You) definitely saw (Miller) and Aaron (Donald) really causing a lot of havoc for the Bengals o-line,” Beane said Thursday. “I thought Burrow had a heck of a year last year. And had they not been able to do that, I think (the Bengals) might have won that game.
“I think the Rams d-line, when they needed the plays, really stepped up and closed that game out for them. And that’s what I’m hoping Von can help our guys do this year.”
With the Rams trailing and short on time, Miller pounced. He watched the play clock, and he felt he had great jumps.
“I threw just about everything at them,” he said.
Even with emptying his arsenal of moves, there was a strategy.

The sixth annual Von Miller Pass Rush Summit was a chance for younger Bills defensive ends to learn more about their craft, all while strengthening their bonds with Miller and as a group.
“I didn’t use one move. I don’t know how long the drive was – I think was about six or seven plays, but I had six different rushes, seven different rushes on that,” Miller said. “And I didn’t have anything premeditated. … It just really felt good.”
Miller won’t premeditate, at least not in the sense of rigid scripting. Still, he is always planning ahead. He knows that to maximize a move later in the game, it can help to avoid using it earlier.
But after plotting and watching and waiting, it still comes down to reacting.
“It just depends,” Miller said. “I might have an angle or approach that I want to rush. And then when the ball is snapped, it just goes out the doors.”
Sometimes he compares it to pitching in baseball. Miller has a knuckleball, he says, but he also a fastball, a curveball, a slider. The sequencing matters as much as the options.

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“You’re not going to throw a knuckleball every single play,” he said.
His variety of moves allows him to strike throughout a game. Miller aims to lull offensive linemen into a false sense of security when he can.
“That’s just how I rush,” Miller said. “I’m not going to spin, or I’m not going to dip and ghost every single play. It’ll just be when they least expect it – well, when I perceived they least expect it – that’s when I do it.”
But Miller also knows it’s not always up to him alone.
In the third quarter, back-to-back Rams sacks illustrated what Miller hopes to do once again in SoFi Stadium, this time with the Bills.

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With 2:47 left in the third quarter, the Bengals took over on their own 16-yard line. On the first play of the drive, it was teammate A’Shawn Robinson who brought Burrow to the ground for a loss of two.
Miller saw Robinson jump out as he crashed inside.
“It was speed to power, and I fell inside, and Joe Burrow saw me, and he kind of stepped up in a pocket and to A’Shawn,” Miller said. “I felt like I could have got a sack on that play.”
A sack didn’t elude Miller long. On the very next play, Miller shot through the Bengals offensive line for a 10-yard sack.
“You’ve got to work as a group to get plays, and it takes all four of us,” Miller said. “It just feels good because A’Shawn is typically a run stopper. And he got a sack in the Super Bowl, and we all got sacks. It just feels good as a unit for everybody to have success.”

“Tre’s in a good spot,” Beane said. “He’s really working hard. It’s still going to be a long season. I think he’ll play a considerable number of games.”
Miller’s sack, his first of the game, brought up third-and-22. The Bengals were unable to convert and went three-and-out.
Even in the few short weeks after a midseason trade, Miller quickly picked up on tendencies of his Rams teammates and used those to inform his approach to any play. If Donald or Robinson moved one way, Miller sensed it and planned accordingly.
It has been explicitly known since March that the Bills are hoping for a similar chemistry on their defensive line. Third-year defensive end A.J. Epenesa, who attended the summit in person this year, landed on the same idea: this pass rush is a luxury for the Bills and a headache for opposing teams.
“They’re gonna be scared of that,” Epenesa said Tuesday. “We have some mismatches set up, and it’s nice to be able to have such a luxury on some things.”
There’s some external pressure, then, for the Bills to produce quickly. But a key to Miller’s pass rushing is patience. He keeps perspective on what statistical success may mean. He’s not going to get to the quarterback every play. In the meantime, he scopes out weakness on the offensive line.
“They can stop me – out of 60 plays, they can stop me 55 times,” Miller said, “And those five (other) plays, I could get sacks on all five of those plays, and it could be one of my best games.”
Sometimes the most devastating strike comes after waiting and waiting.
“I got all game to get to the quarterback,” Miller said. “And they got all game to stop me. And if I get there, I win.”
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Buffalo Bills linebacker Von Miller waves to fans after the Bills 42-15 win over the Denver Broncos at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. 
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