ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For the Broncos and their star pass rusher, Von Miller at 80 percent is still better than Von Miller at zero percent.
In his return to game action after sitting out the Broncos' Week 13 win over the Chargers with a knee injury, Miller wasn't completely himself. Against the Texans on Sunday, he played just 59 percent of the Broncos' defensive snaps, the lowest percentage he's played since a Week 17 game in 2017 in which the Broncos sat most of their starters after the early part of the game.
In his limited snaps, Miller showed he could be effective with two quarterback hits and three total tackles as he and the team did their best to manage his injury.
Even better still, Head Coach Vic Fangio said he thinks that Miller may have come out of the game on track to advance his recovery this week.
"Physically, I think he came out good," Fangio said Monday. "I don't think he's any worse today than he was last week at this time. In fact, I think he's a little better. ... I think probably yesterday he was operating at about 80 percent. Hopefully we can get him up to 85 or 90 this week."
After the game, Miller said he couldn't put a percentage on his play, but he was just happy to return to the field and contribute.
"I can't, but it felt good to go out there and play," Miller said Sunday. "Whatever the percentage is, it just felt good to be out there and just do it for my teammates."
Tackle Ja'Wuan James joined Miller in returning from injury to face the Texans, anchoring the right side of the line for the first half. James had last played in a Week 8 game against Indianapolis before aggravating a knee injury he first suffered in Week 1 against Oakland.
"He did fine, played a pretty good half," Fangio said. "Not perfect, but, again, more positive than negative."
James did not play in the second half.
Fangio wouldn't commit to increasing James' workload ahead for the Broncos' Week 15 game vs. Kansas City, but he said that option will be under consideration.
"We'll see how that goes this week," Fangio said. "That was our plan last week. I think he can be extended more. We'll see."
Meanwhile, the Broncos' defensive depth will likely continue to be tested as Miller recovers and as rookie defensive end Dre'Mont Jones faces missing time to recover from an ankle injury. After placing Derek Wolfe on injured reserve on Dec. 3 with an elbow injury, the Broncos were already missing a key player in the trenches, and Jones' absence after the second defensive snap further thinned the Broncos' depth on the line.
"It's a high-ankle sprain," Fangio said Monday. "We're not sure of the severity. It could be that he might be able to play this week, or it could be that he'll miss a couple weeks. The next few days will tell."
Fellow rookie Noah Fant also left Sunday's game with a lower leg injury, but Fangio said Monday, "I think he's OK."
"He got stepped on, on his foot," Fangio said. "Got a little bruise there, which is OK, and a little hip irritation injury, but they're still doing more tests on him. [I'm] hopefully optimistic."