ENGLEWOOD — Cleveland interim coach Gregg Williams warned his offensive linemen this week that Von Miller anticipates the snap as well as any pass rusher in the NFL.
“Oh yeah, you see that a lot, man. That’s what he gets guys (on). He uses that to his advantage because a lot of guys panic as far as getting back,” said Browns right tackle Chris Hubbard, who will try to keep the Broncos’ star linebacker off quarterback Baker Mayfield this weekend.
The Browns (5-7-1) meet the Broncos (6-7) in a rare Saturday night matchup of teams technically still alive in the AFC playoff hunt.
Miller’s timing can sometimes be a tad off, like it was last weekend in his foiled return to Levi’s Stadium, where his two strip sacks of Cam Newton led the Broncos past the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Three times he was fooled by third-string quarterback Nick Mullens’ hard count, twice on San Francisco’s final possession of the first half, a 72-yard touchdown drive aided by five defensive penalties that gave the 49ers an insurmountable 20-point halftime lead.
Miller was summoned to the sideline for a tongue-lashing from his coach after his third infraction, and he was just as hard on himself after the Broncos’ damaging 20-14 loss, saying his trio of flags was “just flat-out ridiculous.”
This week, head coach Vance Joseph and defensive coordinator Joe Woods reiterated that Miller is too good to risk jumping offsides by trying to time the snap instead of just bursting across the line when the center snaps the ball.
“At some point you’ve just got to go on the ball,” Woods said. “For him to get that many offsides, it was unnecessary.”
Miller, however, said that timing his jump is a big part of his game and the underlying reason he’s been able to:
Tie Simon Fletcher’s franchise record of 103½ sacks, counting the playoffs.Collect 13½ sacks this season, three behind league leader Aaron Donald.And team up with Bradley Chubb to form the league’s most productive pass-rushing duo.“I mean, yeah, I was upset about it but at the end of the day, if I’ve got 97 (regular season) sacks, probably 80 of them came off of getting a great jump,” Miller said Wednesday. “So, yeah, I jumped offsides. But quarterbacks throw interceptions, too. It’s not like you tell them not to throw the ball down the field no more. It’s just part of the game.
“That’s just something that I’ve worked on and I guessed wrong. Like I said after the game, I’m a gambling man. I like to gamble. Sometimes I gamble big and win ... and sometimes I don’t.”
With a career-best eight-game sack streak going, Miller is loath to hold back even if his coaches want him to rein in his gambling ways.
“I’ve been on a great streak of really being in tune with the snap count and really being in tune with the offense for about five, six weeks now. So, I’m not going to change it up,” Miller said.
Asked how often he guesses right for every time he guesses wrong, Miller cracked, “I’ve got, what, five offsides? And I’ve got, what, 13 sacks? So, I mean, that’s a pretty good ratio if you ask me.”
Miller said he might have been too eager last weekend because he was one sack from tying Fletcher’s franchise record and returning to the site of his Super Bowl MVP performance.
Given his flags last week, Miller’s sure Mayfield will try to draw him offsides, too.
“I’m sure they’ll come in and give us a lot of hard counts. We’re playing at home, so I don’t know how effective that’ll be,” Miller said. “I mean, I’m a gambler, too, so I’m not going to do the exact same thing that I did last week. Of course, I’m going to change it up. But that’s part of my game. I never change it too much.”
Hubbard said the crowd noise at Mile High Stadium will certainly give Miller an edge.
“That crowd is always loud and the stadium is always rocking. So, he has that advantage,” Hubbard said. “But my advantage is to get off the ball fast.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed.