HENDERSON, Nev. — At their best, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware formed an elite pass-rushing duo.
In the team's run to a Super Bowl 50 title, the two players harassed opposing quarterbacks and combined for 7.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl.
Their best regular-season performance, though, came in Ware's first year in Denver, as the two combined for 24 sacks and both made the Pro Bowl. That 10-sack season was hardly a given for Miller, who tore his ACL near the end of the 2013 season and missed the final four games of the year as the team advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII.
When Miller returned, Ware saw a motivated player who "came back even stronger," he told DenverBroncos.com this week.
As Miller prepares to return from another season-ending injury — an unusual ankle injury that cost him all of the 2020 campaign — Ware believes Miller will face a different challenge.
"Now, I feel like he has even more to prove, because you're going on Year 11, and people say after Year 10 that your body starts deteriorating, and you start wondering, 'Is he still the same dude?'" Ware said. "So now he's like 'I have a lot more on my plate to prove to everybody' and to say, 'Hey, I'm still that dude, even in Year 11. I got this.'"
Ware said he's seen an attitude from Miller that suggests the three-time first-team All-Pro isn't done adding to his list of career accolades. He also sees a player that closely resembles the one who posted five consecutive double-digit sack seasons from 2014-18.
"I see that same mentality," Ware said. "Actually, I see a little bit more. The year that he got hurt [in 2020], he came down, we trained a little bit, and he was really hungry and he was actually bigger. He said, 'I want to get bigger, I want to get stronger. I want to have more power moves.'
"But then I go back to this year, he's actually leaned all the way back up again, and I see the speed that I got to see when I played with him. It's not the brute strength, let's run this dude over [attitude]. No, [it's] 'I'm just going to run around you, dip and rip and I'm going to get to the quarterback.' I see that guy back this year."
When Ware reached the latter stages of his career, he said he added "a lot of … speed moves" to his game. He borrowed from Miller to add a spin, a swipe and other moves that could help him as he played at a lower weight and moved away from the power moves that he relied on earlier in his career.
Miller's game has always relied on speed, balance, fluidity and suddenness, rather than pure power. Ware said he believes that can help Miller maintain his productiveness even as he enters his 11th season in the NFL, though he also noted that Miller must care for his body in a different way.
"He's always had that speed, and now he's going to start thinking about your body and the pounding," Ware said. "You've got  games — a lot of games — [so] how can I alleviate the pounding and save myself for the game? [It's about] being smart — being smart in practice and being 100 percent for the game."
If Miller can return to his old self, the Broncos could finally see the dividends of having both Miller and Bradley Chubb in Head Coach Vic Fangio's defense. The two have played just four games together under Fangio, but they combined for 26.5 sacks in 2018, which was Chubb's rookie year.
Ware said Chubb trained with him earlier this offseason to learn new pass-rush moves, and he expects Chubb to be able to implement that information when he returns to the field. Ware, like many Broncos fans, is eager to see the two players form a duo that, numerically speaking, outpaced the damage that Ware and Miller did in 2014.
"I want to see that back again, because I know how much havoc they can wreak," Ware said. "I mean, it's 26[.5] sacks by two dudes. That's almost 15 and 15. They can probably get 30. … Imagine if you get a healthy Von and a healthy Chubb and go from there."