ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Sunday's game will mark Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden's first action against the Broncos and a pass rush that has produced the second-most sacks in the NFL through 14 games.
But one Broncos defender, linebacker Von Miller, is no stranger to the rookie quarterback from Oklahoma State.
Miller, who is currently third in the NFL with 16 sacks, took on Weeden once in college, when Miller's Texas A&M Aggies fell to Weeden's Cowboys in September of 2010. Though Miller was unable to sack Weeden that afternoon, he remembers getting to the quarterback at least once, but being disappointed upon seeing that he had been penalized for unnecessary roughness.
Just two years later, the former Big 12 rivals meet again Sunday in a clash between the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and the Browns' starting quarterback. Miller is well aware he'll be seeing a different player than the one he saw the last time he lined up across from Weeden.
"I remember him making all the passes that were necessary in the OSU offense," Miller said. "(Oklahoma State) Coach (Mike) Gundy, he is pretty demanding of his quarterback, so he was making big-time passes in college. I know he can throw the ball. I know he can get it in those spots."
"He has made changes and gotten better in a lot of different areas, so I'm excited to play them this week," Miller added.
While the first rookie in the Cleveland backfield that comes to mind for most fans is running back Trent Richardson, the Broncos know that although Weeden has room to grow, he is already another player capable of making big plays.
"He looks like he has the talent to get it done," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "The thing about playing that position as a rookie, it's just tough. It's the toughest position and I'm sure as he gets older, he'll understand. The more he plays, he'll understand what to do. But right now, he can make you look bad if you let him."
At 29 years old, Weeden is by no means a typical rookie. After coming out of high school pursuing a career in Major League Baseball, Weeden enrolled at Oklahoma State several years later than most of his peers, effectively giving himself a substantial leg up on most first-year players in terms of maturity.
"He's a strong-armed, smart guy," Head Coach John Fox said. "He's a little bit older than most rookies, in the sense that he did play pro baseball so he's been around professional athletics. I think his maturity level is pretty high. He is gifted. He's capable of beating you as far as with his feet. When he does scramble, he's been effective. He's got excellent arm strength. Those are the things I know without having coached him."
As one of two rookies playing a prominent role in the Cleveland offense, Weeden has shown the ability to quickly adjust to the speed of the NFL game. And like fellow rookie Richardson, Weeden is proving that top college players can make an immediate impact at the next level.
The fact that they're in their first year doesn't change how the Broncos defense will approach slowing them down.
"Young guys with talent are still talented guys," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said.