ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For a rising defensive star like Dre'Mont Jones, Von Miller's return to the field can be a blessing.
It can create more one-on-one opportunities for the third-year player, and it can force quarterbacks to step up in the pocket to avoid Miller, right into Jones' waiting grasp.
"It's good to have Von back," Jones said Thursday. "It's always amazing to have a Hall of Famer playing right next to you."
But it can also create some difficult moments for a young player looking to add to his sack total after a career-high 6.5 takedowns last season.
"It's a gift and a curse, because the first sack he got this year, he stole it from me," Jones said.
As Miller took down Daniel Jones against the Giants for his first sack in more than 600 days, the Broncos' Jones was close behind. In the game book, Miller was rightly credited with a full sack — but that doesn't mean it isn't painful to come up just short.
"It really sucks when you get a really, really good rush — like, you get an amazing rush — and in your mind and your heart you're like, 'I'm about to get the quarterback,'" Miller said Thursday, "and then you just see somebody just run right in front of you and get the sack."
Miller said he's felt the same way that Jones did, and he reflected back on his first sack of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In his first meeting against the now-Super Bowl MVP, Miller played just 50 percent of Denver's defensive snaps. The following year, Miller failed to get to Mahomes in a 27-23 home loss. The lasting image from that game is Miller grasping at Mahomes' feet as he transferred the ball to his left hand and pushed a pass to Tyreek Hill for a critical first down.
When the Broncos went to Kansas City later that year, Miller finally got a takedown of Mahomes, but he and Bradley Chubb were each credited with half of a sack. And that's where the politics of sacking the quarterback comes into play. Miller believed he should have received credit for the whole sack, but he didn't want to create an issue between himself and his pass-rushing partner.
"I couldn't put our relationship on the line and our friendship on the line by turning it in [to the league for review]," Miller said. "I didn't want to put a strain on our friendship like that by being selfish, even though the sack was really supposed to be a whole sack by me."
Of course, there are times when it's more acceptable in Miller's mind to ask the league to review a sack. In 2018, during the Broncos' upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miller and Shelby Harris were each credited with half a sack of Ben Roethlisberger. This time, Miller pleaded his case.
"I had beat my guy and I had grabbed 'Big Ben' and Shelby had come and jumped on the sack and they called it a half," Miller said. "With me and Shelby, it's not like me and Chubb — I had to turn that one in to get my full sack. Shelby had the pick that game to save it. … I just had to turn that one in."
Miller knows that as the season progresses, both he and Jones — and Chubb, when he returns — will have a chance to tally quarterback takedowns. And Miller said it's important for every pass-rusher to get their opportunity to earn that defensive currency.
"Dre'Mont, I need him, so I want him to get sacks," Miller said. "I want him to get sacks, I want him to be happy in there. I want to get sacks. I want to be happy, as well. When you've got two guys that rush the way we rush, we're going to be close to the quarterback at the same time. It just happens.
"… It's just like basketball. The big man, he has to eat. [With] Kobe [Bryant] and Shaq [O'Neal], Shaq has to get his. Shaq is not going to be happy if he's not scoring points. Kobe is not going to be happy if he's not scoring points as well, so we've got to develop — we're already developing — a relationship where we both can eat. I feel confident, and I believe that we both can be able to get sacks and we both can do things to make this team win, get sacks and do all the wonderful things that we do."
A DYNAMIC DUO
Until late in the game, there wasn't much separation between Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams.
Through three quarters, Gordon and Williams each had nine carries, for 31 and 35 yards, respectively.
Only a late Gordon 70-yard touchdown run created real separation between the two players. He finished with 11 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown, while Williams carried the ball 14 times for 45 yards. Gordon also added three catches for 17 yards, while Williams had one catch for minus-four yards.
As the Broncos move ahead in their early-season slate, Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said he expects Gordon and Williams to continue to both have major roles.
"They both had an impact on the game," Shurmur said Thursday. "This thing will play out for the Giants, but they're really stout and physical up front, and that was quite a battle. And so we just had to keep picking away at them in the run game. I think it's important for our football team. Our guys had some really good runs. We're going to use both backs. I can't tell you it's going to end up being even every week, but I think they're both going to have to have an impact. Hopefully over the course of the year, they'll both have enough carries where we're saying, 'Boy, they both had great years.'"
Gordon's success is well-documented; he ranks fourth in the league in rushing yards and was a candidate for FedEx Ground Player of the Week honors. Head Coach Vic Fangio, though, said he was also impressed by the rookie runner.
"I was impressed with his play," Fangio said. "There wasn't always a lot of room there on some of his runs. He seemed to make something out of a few of them. He's a damn good back and we're thrilled to have him. … We'll continue to use him in that way."