(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
As the regular season winds down, three main candidates have emerged in the Defensive Player of the Year race—Houston’s J.J. Watt, San Francisco’s Aldon Smith, and Denver’s Von Miller.
On Monday, Smith recorded 5.5 sacks against Chicago’s garbage offensive line and passed Miller as the league’s current sack leader (15-to-13). After the game, Smith was quick to inform Miller that he had passed him.
With this being the case, and after Smith recorded more sacks than Miller in 2011 (14-to-11.5), a great debate has emerged: Who is the better player?
I recently touched on this subject in my latest article over at B/R. Let’s take a quick look at both Miller and Smith after the jump.
Miller is a more complete player and has single-handedly caused more havoc to opposing offenses than Smith has over the past two seasons.
Smith, similarly to Houston’s J.J. Watt, has one main job—rush the quarterback. In most of San Franchisco’s defensive schemes, Smith has his hand on the ground, preparing to rush the quarterback.
Rushing the quarterback is his job, and he has done a heck of a job, notching 31 sacks over the past two seasons. Smith deserves recognition for his pass-rushing abilities, but the reason Miller won DRoY is simple—he is no one-trick pony.
Miller is asked to do far more than simply rush the quarterback week in and week out. Rather, Miller is Denver’s “Sam”—strongside outside linebacker—in the Broncos’ 4-3 defense.
A disruptive force, Miller has notched 44 tackles for losses over the past two seasons, which is more than any other player in the NFL during that time period (for comparisons’ sake, Smith recorded 28 during the same time frame).
Miller is an outside linebacker that does a fantastic job of getting to the quarterback when he is asked to do so. Smith, on the other hand, is listed as an outside linebacker, but from what I saw from Monday’s game, he rarely leaves a three-point stance—playing like a defensive end, rushing on every play I was able to observe.
Against the run, Miller and Smith are not even comparable. Miller has been phenomenal, especially this season, at bringing down running backs in the backfield.
So, we are not yet ready to concede that Smith is a better pass rusher than Miller. He merely gets more opportunities to rush the quarterback.