ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The most recent performance from linebacker Von Miller, and the award that came with it, have garnered a new level of praise from those around him.
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio couldn't say for sure if Miller is the most talented player he's ever coached, but he was able to make a comparison that might have spoken even greater volumes about the recently named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
"I did spend a very short time in Kansas City with (former linebacker) Derrick Thomas," Del Rio said. "I think they're similar in terms of unique abilities to finish and get the quarterback to the ground. Rare ability, combination of speed and power. It's kind of fitting to mention that because we're going to K.C. this week."
Miller wears No. 58 on his jersey in honor of Thomas, his idol, who compiled 126.5 sacks from the outside linebacker position before passing away after a car accident in 2000.
"As far as that goes, just wearing the number, trying to make him proud and his family proud just by wearing 58 and playing in a way that he would play," Miller said. "That's all I can say about that."
After Sunday's game versus San Diego, Miller's 24.5 career sacks was more than any player has ever totaled in his first 25 games, except for one. Thomas recorded 25 sacks in his first 25 contests.
"Derrick Thomas, to be even in the same breath as that guy is humbling," Miller said. "I've got a long way to go to be even close, in my opinion. I'm just going to keep on taking it one day at a time. That's what I've been saying this whole time."
That mindset is one of the qualities that enabled Miller to have continued success since he came into the league in 2011. He has climbed near the top of the league in several defensive categories, leading the conference in sacks, with 13, and pacing the NFL in tackles for loss with 23. Miller's one-day-at-a-time approach is benefiting not only himself but the rest of the team.
"The best part is the way he's working every day because that gives you a chance to be special," Del Rio said. "Obviously, he's been blessed with a lot of ability and in order to reach your potential you have to work at it and I think the best thing he's doing is doing just that - coming in and working every day and being a good teammate."
With 11.5 sacks last year, he was an excellent pass-rusher. But what Miller is doing this year goes beyond chasing after the quarterback. His four forced fumbles and 23 tackles for loss are evidence, and his defensive coordinator agrees.
"The one part that's really improved in Von is his overall play as a linebacker," Del Rio said. "Stuffing the run, tackles behind the line of scrimmage, jamming the tight end before he rushes, or covering the tight end or the back in the flap -- things like that. He's gotten better there."
As he continues to make plays all over the football field, he'll step into a new role as a leader of the football team. It's a process that has already begun to naturally take effect with a player who makes such an impact on the football field.
"As a player, when you make plays, it just comes along with it," safety Mike Adams said. "No one's going to give him that tag. He's just going to have to know that it's on him already to be the leader. He has to know that he's an older guy now. He's maturing, he's coming into his own so he has to know that. No one's going to give him that tag."
14th-year cornerback Champ Bailey has seen many talented players in his career, and on Wednesday Bailey said Miller is "right up there" with all of them.
Miller maintains that he has a long way to go until he makes comparisons to players like Derrick Thomas a reality. Bailey knows that's true. But with time, he believes it could be fair statement.
"I think what separates the real talented guys from the great professional football athletes is doing it over a long course of time, being consistent," Bailey said. "He has a chance to do that."