If the Buffalo Bills’ defense has had one fatal flaw the last few years, it is producing sacks. Buffalo finished with 42, 39, and 44 total sacks during the last three years. None of those seasons finished inside the top 10 in the NFL in sack totals. Insert Von Miller!
Brandon Beane backed up the Brinks truck for the future Hall-of-Famer, giving Miller a six-year deal worth up to $120,000,000, and over 51 million is fully guaranteed. Miller is the NFL’s active leader in sacks with 115.5 career sacks – seven more than Chandler Jones, who is second. And if Miller’s age is of concern, he is coming off of another dominant season with 9.5 sacks and 17 QB hits while playing roughly 78-percent of snaps in 15 games for the Broncos and Rams. To put those numbers in a Buffalo Bills context, last year’s sack leader Mario Addison (now a Houston Texan) finished with seven. Ed Oliver, a defensive tackle, led the team in QB hits with 14.
It’s obvious through these first 200 words, or so, that Miller will have an individual impact on the Bills, but rising tides lift all boats, so what can we expect from the other battleships opposite of Miller? I looked back at the former No. 2 overall pick’s last six seasons to get a handle on how the other EDGE rushers on his team have performed. We’re about to get number nerdy, so buckle up!
Let’s examine Miller and his next two highest-performing EDGE teammates from 2015-2019.
This is prior to Von missing the 2020 season and being traded in 2021 (I’ll get to that later). During those five seasons with Denver, Miller racked up some eye-popping stats: 11.4 sacks, 52.8 tackles, 25 QB hits, and 2.6 forced fumbles per game. For the 2020 Bills’ context, the leading EDGE in each stat was seven sacks (Addison), 50 tackles (Rousseau), 10 QB hits (Rousseau), and two forced fumbles (Addison/Hughes).
You didn’t need me to tell you, but an average Von Miller season blows anything the Bills did last year out of the water. That’s not the point of this exercise, we want to see what the other EDGEs did.
Over those five seasons, the second-best EDGE with Miller tallied 7.7 sacks, 40.8 tackles, 16.4 QB hits, and 1.4 forcer fumbles per season. It’s fair to say that an average season for an EDGE playing with Miller is equal to the best Buffalo had to offer in 2020. Let’s go further with the third EDGE on a Von Miller team. That player racked up four sacks, 46.8 tackles, 11.4 QB hits, and one forced fumble per game. Those stats (I warned you we were getting nerdy) should have you saying: “Damn! Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham are about to go HAM” or you may be contrarian and think: “That was Miller’s peak. This is what have you done for me lately league.” For that, let’s look just at Miller’s time with the defending Super Bowl champion Rams.
In his eight regular season games with the Rams, Miller didn’t waste time getting acclimated, totaling five sacks, 31 tackles, and eight QB hits. If you extrapolate that over a 17-game season: 10.6 sacks, 65.8 tackles, and 17 QB hits. Those numbers align nicely with Miller’s averages over his first ten years in the league. So, how did the other EDGE produce? The one constant EDGE with Miller on the Rams was Leonard Floyd, who played 80% of the snaps to Miller’s 79%. Floyd put up a pair of sacks, 27 tackles, and six QB hits after LA acquired Miller. Those numbers over a 17-game span equal 4.25 sacks, 57.4 tackles, and 12.8 QB hits. In that small sample size with the seven-time all-pro as a Ram, Floyd had arguably his best or second best season of his six-year career.
There is one last question to answer: what about the playoffs? The 2022 Bills are primed for a Super Bowl run. It might be hard to fathom, but his numbers are better when the lights shine the brightest. During his runs to kiss the Lombardi (2015 Broncos, 2021 Rams), Miller notched ten sacks and 32 hurries. The newest Bill lived in the backfield during those seven games. As for his teammates, the top EDGE opposite Miller had six sacks and 24 hurries during those playoff runs. The next EDGE in line had a sack and six hurries.
This guy hates it here pic.twitter.com/dJaSTujuH5
— Greg Vorse TV (@GregVorse) August 2, 2022
So, whether it’s the regular season or playoffs, bet on Miller and his fellow EGDE-mates. With the Bills, it’s a good bet that Rousseau, Basham, and A.J. Epenesa should be getting after the opposing quarterback early and often.