The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 on the strength of their defense, and this year's team looks good enough to do the same.
The defense is once again stout in every facet while making some of the best NFL quarterbacks look like average rookies. The biggest reason for this is none other than the highest-paid defensive player in football: Von Miller.
Now in his sixth NFL season, Miller looks well on his way to Canton with 64 sacks through his first 74 games, including four through two games this year. After getting just one in Week 1, Miller racked up three in Week 2, including the game-clinching strip-sack on Andrew Luck. Fellow linebacker Shane Ray scooped it up and took it 15 yards for the score and the eventual dagger.
#Broncos Von Miller uses a speed rush to get the sack. Love the shoulder dip to avoid the OL's punch https://t.co/Mdv6e5HH5R— DLineVids (@DLineVids) September 9, 2016
Game over thanks to Von Miller pic.twitter.com/3lxD4dk0UI— UnrealSports (@UnrealSports) September 21, 2016
With DeMarcus Ware sidelined for the foreseeable future due to a fractured arm, Miller is hands down the guy on Denver's defense that Cincinnati must put every effort into stopping. The man who will play a major part in that will be Bengals right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi.
Miller gets most of his pass-rush attempts on the right side of the offensive line. While he's fully capable of lining up and rushing from both sides, most of his work will be on the right side against a young Ogbuehi instead of the elder Andrew Whitworth, who's been one of the game's best left tackles.
Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander knows this, and he knows Ogbuehi will be a better player after facing one of the game's best right tackles.
"Any time you’re a player, and when you step on the field against a guy like that, you’re a better player before you walked on it, that’s for sure," said Alexander, via Bengals.com. "If you block him, well that gives you confidence. If you have struggles, you know what you have to work on. It’s the best environment you can have for a young player. You can’t hide against these guys. You have to play them some time."
Whitworth has been in the league for a decade and seen many linemen in his days. He sees something special in Ogbuehi, the Bengals young starter.
"He's got tremendous ability," Whitworth said of Ogbuehi. “He's got the right heart. He's got the right mindset. I think his future will be bright."
Miller himself talked about the matchup with his old college teammate, and he too sees great things in store for the second-year tackle.
"Cedric is talented. I see him putting the handcuffs on guys," Miller said. "I'm sure it's not as consistent as he would like it to be, and I'm sure it's not as consistent as he knows he can do. I know full-hand what type of player Cedric is.
"When he got drafted, I called him going to the Cincinnati Bengals. That's my little brother. I love him to death, and I feel like he's kind of the little brother I taught him everything I know pass-rush wise. I coached him up."
Miller went as far as to compare Ogbuehi to former Jets stalwart tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
"He always had length and athletic ability, and he’s always been strong," Miller said. "He reminded me of D’Brickashaw Ferguson in his prime. He has that length, and he’s able to sit back there and shoot his arms and not get off-balanced."
Ogbuehi knows how good Miller is from their days at Texas A&M. It was only for one year as Miller was a dominant college senior while Ogbuehi was a true freshman redshirting, but they faced off a couple of times when Ogbuehi was on the scout team.
"It didn’t go real well then," Ogbuehi said."Every week there are great players, but he’s probably the best player right now. So it’s a little different because he’s the best player. It’s exciting for me. It’s a great test to see where I’m at, and I’m excited for it. This is why they drafted me; to block guys like him. I’m excited for it. It’s going to be a great challenge, and we’ll see what happens."
Ogbuehi is in the midst of his first season as a starter. His rookie season was cut short as he opened the year on PUP, costing him training camp and the first two months of the regular season. Less than a year later, Ogbuehi is entering his third game after missing most of training camp with a toe injury.
As you can imagine, it's been a rocky start for Ogbuehi thus far, but he showed improvements in Week 2 after getting whipped by the Jets in Week 1. He's watched enough film to learn the keys to defending Miller, though executing them is another story.
"Less body to grab. I have to be more patient, have better technique," Ogbuehi said. "Really, the name of the game is technique with him. That’s how I’m going to practice this week."