ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As DeMarcus Ware finished his ninth season in the NFL, he headed to Denver with quite the resume.
During his career with the Cowboys, Ware recorded seven Pro Bowl appearances, four first-team All-Pro nods and 117 sacks.
By nearly any metric, Ware was already a veritable Pro Football Hall of Famer.
But he arrived in Denver in 2014 for his 10th season with something to prove. He finished his final season in Dallas with just six sacks, which was the lowest number of his career. He also failed to make the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2005.
Ware responded by recording 10 sacks in his first season in Denver and returning to the Pro Bowl. He also earned a trip in 2015 as he tallied 7.5 more sacks, but he was busy preparing for a two-sack performance in a Super Bowl win over the Panthers.
And because Ware responded to the adversity and the doubt, he knows Von Miller can do the same.
Like Ware in 2014, Miller is prepared to enter his 10th season. And like his former teammate, Miller faces questions about if he can return to his former heights.
In 2019, Miller recorded just eight sacks, which was his lowest total since 2013. He also did not tally a forced fumble for the first time in his career.
As he prepares to enter 2020 as a 31-year-old pass rusher, some doubt his ability to bounce back to an All-Pro level.
Ware is not among them.
"I expect a lot more consistency, a lot more maturity, like he had started [doing] at the end of the season," Ware told DenverBroncos.com last week. "You can see how, when things didn't go right, there wasn't any pointing fingers. It was, 'Let's get the job done. It falls on us.' And you can see they improved every single game after a loss. And you can see Von, how he's working out a lot earlier than he did last year and doing what he needs to do to lead the team this year.
"…It's one of those things where when you hit the 10th year, and they're like, 'Aw, OK, well does he still got it?' Because they did the same thing to me. But this is a year for him to prove to everyone not only 'Am I consistent at what I do?' but [that he] also can lead the team to a championship."
Miller could be rejuvenated in part by second-year quarterback Drew Lock, who led the team to a 4-1 record during his five starts and impressed Miller with his play.
"I just wanted a Drew Lock jersey," Miller said in December after a late-season jersey swap with Lock. "I know how valuable it's going to be in the future. I wanted to add it to my collection. He's going to be the quarterback. He's going to be the future of the Denver Broncos. I wanted to make sure that I had that jersey. I've got a Peyton Manning jersey. I've got Philip Rivers and Tom Brady. I like Drew. I had to put him up there too."
Ware, who played with Manning in Denver, knows the value that a franchise quarterback can have on the rest of the roster.
"The quarterback is one of the catalysts on the team that, when he's confident, even in times of turmoil, that's what keeps the team going, because you're going to have those ups and downs," Ware said. "And when you have a quarterback, [who] like, no matter what, doesn't stop, keeps his morale going, but also has the tenacity like a defensive player, one of those guys that, you know what, it's almost like they're cutthroat. That's how Peyton Manning was. And I can see that in the young quarterback they have right now. He didn't stop, and you can see how well the team actually gravitated to him, because of how much they improved going into the latter part of the season."
Miller also improved individually. After recording just 2.5 sacks in his first six games of 2019 and none through the first three weeks, he ended the season with four sacks in the team's final six games.
With the addition of Jurrell Casey and a healthy Bradley Chubb, Miller could visit the quarterback even more frequently in 2020. And, like Ware, he could bounce back in a major way.