“The Duke of Awesome.”
That was one of Darryl Talley’s on-field nicknames, given for his explosive play-making abilities, and explosive leadership of his teammates and the crowd.
A 2nd round selection of the Buffalo Bills in 1983, Talley would fire his cylinders until he became the Bills’ all-time leading tackler with 1,137. He also recorded 38.5 sacks, 12 interceptions for 189 return yards and 2 touchdowns, and 14 fumble recoveries for 76 return yards. He averaged 120 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 6.2 takeaways per season and his mark of 188 regular season games played ranks fifth-most in team history.
Stats aside, his unquestioned leadership played a major role in the Bills’ amazing ability to recover from Superbowl loss after loss, his strident voice in the locker room and his reputation among his teammates was an extreme lionizing force.
“Without Darryl Talley, I wouldn’t be half as good a player as I am, with him on my team.” -Bruce Smith
Talley does have thoughts on what the current Bills team needs to do to find success. From an interview with BuffaloSportsDaily.com:
I don’t have that much time to start telling you that. The Bills current players need to tackle better, they need to block better, they need to play as a team and trust one another as a team and hold each other accountable for his assignment.
But then, most of all, they need to have fun together as a team on and off the field, because their time together is short and don’t realize until it’s over.
Out of the playoffs since 2000, the Buffalo Bills really could use a Darryl Talley today.
Miller was the recipient of the 2011 Butkis Award, given to the nation’s top LB. He is an outside linebackers who plays what is called the “joker” position, meaning he can rush the QB or drop into coverage. He does both very well.
At 6’3″, and 243 lbs, the senior LB product out of Texas A&M has seen his draft day stock rocket since his dominating performance in the Senior Bowl where he earned Defensive MVP honors (an event in which Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey was selected coach Miller’s side).
At 6’3″, he is shorter than Talley than just one inch. 243 lbs is a small number in the NFL, yet Clay Matthews weighs 255 today, and himself was just 240 lbs when he played in the Senior Bowl. Add to that the fact that Miller was named the school’s “Weightlifter of the Year” award in 2010, and it is safe to say size should not be an issue.
As for his freakish talent, Mike Maycock of the NFL Network had this to say:
“Two words. Defies. Gravity. Bends parallel to the ground. This guy comes off the edge and it’s scary how quick he gets to the quarterback. In my notes from the season, I had the word ‘wow’ written (about Miller) more than any other player.”
Even more appealing is the fact that Miller has already spent a year playing in the 3-4 defense, which Buffalo employs. He was very eager to show the Bills what he could do during the Senior Bowl, just as the Bills were eager to see his quick pass coverage skills, alongside his pass rushing ability.
“It would be a true blessing to go play for the Bills, but whatever team picks me up, I’ll be happy to play for them,” Miller said.
He also had high praise for Buffalo’s coaching staff when asked if he found it odd that he’d spent his week working at linebacker, rather than as a pass rusher.
“I came here to play linebacker,” Miller said. “Whatever they wanted me to do, this is why I came here. I came here to receive excellent coaching from the Bills coaching staff. If they want me to rush the passer, I’ll get down there and rush the passer. If they want me to drop into coverage, that’s what I’ll do. I’m not here to hide anything or show anything. I’m here to compete.”
And what of that Talley comparison? Remember what Bruce Smith said about the effect Talley had on him as a pro, and consider this. True freshman joker-LB Damontre Moore talked earlier this season about how Miller was teaching him the finer points of the game, but more important than that, Miller was teaching him about being a man, and what it meant to be a true student-athlete. On the field and in the locker room, his leadership of the Aggie defense was unquestioned.
Of course, some scouts have labeled him exclusively as a pass rusher, but his play at the Senior Bowl raised eyebrows over that sentiment. The increased use of the 3-4 base scheme in the NFL and his explosiveness off the edge will earn him a high draft slot.
How high? Many mock drafts have now begun placing him at the 3rd overall selection, Buffalo’s first pick. Joe Buscalglia of WGR 55 had the Bills taking Miller to place into their 3-4 with his latest analysis on February 7th.
Fans who haven’t done the homework on this guy will simply look at his size and will immediately think “Aaron Maybin.” But a real analysis of Miller’s game, coupled with his leadership on and off the field and his consistency of domination and leadership throughout his college career, are earning him comparisons to players more akin to Darryl Talley.
The Duke of Awesome, the Second?
UPDATE: On February 10, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay updated his picks for the draft, and now has the Bills selecting Von Miller with the #3 pick.