The Buffalo Bills’ defense was amazing during the regular season but struggled mightily in the two postseason games before falling 27-10 at home to Cincinnati in the divisional round. The unit allowed the sixth-fewest yards per game at 319.1 and the second-fewest points per game at just 17.9. They were also fifth in takeaways per game, finishing with 1.6 per contest.
Taking a quick look at advanced stats, Buffalo finished fourth overall in Football Outsider’s DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) with a cumulative score of -11%. Those numbers were all with massive free agent signing Von Miller playing 11 games before tearing his ACL on Thanksgiving in a win against the Lions in Detroit. Miller would have been much higher on this list had he been able to play a full season. Let’s get into more specifics on why the EDGE ranks ninth on our list.
Von Miller came in at number 9 in the Cover 1 cumulative Top 10 Important Player rankings by earning ten out of 70 possible points (first-place vote = 10 points, tenth-place vote = 1). Miller’s highest ranking came from both @LowBuffa and @SportsRoc2, who slotted him at #8. The EDGE finished just ahead of #10 Dawson Knox, who racked up nine points from the team.
When evaluating Miller’s boxscore stats, you need to extrapolate them over a 17-game season. The Texas A/M product only appeared in 12 games, so we’ll take his numbers, divide by those 12 appearances and multiply by 17. Doing so would take Von’s eight sacks and draw them out to 11.5, which ranks him tied for 12th overall. His ten tackles for a loss would equate to just over 14 for a full year and would also place him at 12th in the league. PFF (Pro Football Focus) credits him with 33 hurries or 47 over 17 games, which slots Miller in ninth and tied with Myles Garrett. When you take a step back and evaluate Miller’s counting stats in the time he played, it is arguable that the Bills’ biggest offseason acquisition in years was a top-10 talent among EDGE players.
Just like the boxscore numbers, many of the advanced stats place Von Miller near the top 10, but the fantastic thing here is that I don’t have to do the math. His overall defensive grade, according to PFF, was 85.8. That ranks 10th overall, ahead of TJ Watt and Trey Hendrickson to put his performance into context. Miller’s run defense grade also came in 10th at 78.8. Miller drops down to 14th in pass rush grade, sitting at 81.8. What may surprise some is that he also ranked inside the top 30 in EDGE grade in coverage, meaning he was one of the better guys at guarding receivers even at the age of 33.
There was a lot of talk about Von taking a reduced role with the Bills, but that never materialized. Despite his 12th and final game this season being cut short, he still played in 450 snaps, or 61% of the Bills’ defensive snaps when he was active. What might be most impressive (I’m joking about him being an old man) is that the almost 34-year-old only missed two tackles this season, per Pro Football Reference. That equates to an 8.7% missed tackle rate for a guy who flies off the edge on most of his snaps.
Game of the Year:
Miller’s best game in 2022 came in what may have been their biggest regular season matchup, a 24-20 win at Kansas City. In that showdown in Arrowhead, he had a pair of sacks on Patrick Mahomes with nine total hurries, according to PFF. The two sacks were a season-high, as were his four total tackles. PFF gave him a pass rush grade of 81.0, good enough for the second-best of his injury-shortened campaign. “When on the field, Miller was as dominant as the Bills had hoped for, helping lead them to an 8-3 start,” noted @UberHansen.
According to Spotrac, Miller signed a six-year, $120,000,000 contract before the 2022 season. The deal includes an $18,525,000 signing bonus, $51,435,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $20,000,000. Not that the Bills want to get out of the deal with Miller, but if they wanted to it would carry a dead cap hit worth $40,175,000.
Vorse’s Final Take
“Miller didn’t play the entire season, but the impact he’s had on the culture is invaluable.” – @SportsRoc2
“It’s his off-the-field presence though as an experienced voice and exceptional teacher that makes him one of the most important players on the Bills roster.” – @UberHansen
“Even though they didn’t get to actually use him as the playoffs closer, he brought a confidence and edge to the young DL and the team as a whole.” – @LowBuffa
I couldn’t agree more with my colleagues on what Von Miller meant to the Bills off the field, and as you read above, he had a major impact on the field as well before the knee injury on the awful turf of Ford Field. This mentoring started early when we saw Greg Rousseau, AJ Epenesa, and more at his pass-rush academy during the offseason. Those young players were also a sponge during camp, where Miller was often spotted with an arm around one of them and going over technique. The fatherly teachings continued during the regular season, where Rousseau gushed about “practicing with a Hall-of-Famer.” When you’re that good, you bring a cache into the huddle that is impossible to ignore. Bills’ general manager Brandon Beane called Miller a “closer,” and that may be exactly what he does next season. If he returns from the ACL in a year, right around Thanksgiving, he will join Buffalo for the stretch run of what should be another playoff season. There is a lot of chatter about the Bills still needing to upgrade on the defensive line, but don’t forget they could be adding one of the greatest in-season acquisitions when Miller is back on the field at One Bills Drive.
#8 Defensive Tackle DaQuan Jones