A healthy Miller, Sutton may lead to bounce-back for Broncos

NFL Dallas

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP)Perhaps it was because this happened to be the last day of training camp. Or maybe because he just welcomed a new son (a son, he predicted, who would one day be a quarterback). But Von Miller was in a mood to gush.

So gush the Denver Broncos pass rusher did – about family. About how good he’s feeling after missing all of 2020 with an ankle injury. About the attributes of Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock who are locked in a QB battle. About teammates.

And even more about teammates such as receiver Courtland Sutton, who like Miller is coming back from an injury. The return of Miller, the defensive leader, and Sutton, a dynamic playmaker, could factor into a bounce-back year for the Broncos after a 5-11 season.

”I’m always super-optimistic,” Miller said Thursday as the Broncos prepared to travel to Seattle for their second preseason game Saturday. ”I always have these high hopes and these high expectations for my team and my teammates. It’s hard not to feel this way.”

That’s because he sees a defense now featuring rookie defensive back Patrick Surtain II, a first-round pick whom Miller labeled ”a special player” in the making. Surtain’s coverage ability can only buy more time for Miller to get to the quarterback. First, though, he needs to beat fellow rush specialist Bradley Chubb to the QB. Chubb may have gotten even faster following a 7 1/2-sack season that resulted in a Pro Bowl spot.

”He’s a beast,” Miller said of his rush partner. ”He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast and he’s tough.”

Miller was introduced to a future quarterback – his forecast – at 9:25 p.m. Monday.

His name: Valor B’Vsean Miller.

His current measurements: 8 pounds, 13 ounces and 20 1/2 inches.

If not a signal caller, a golfer for sure, Miller cracked about his infant son.

”To see him smile and see him open his eyes and all the other stuff, it was great,” Miller said. ”A great experience. I’m happy I was able to experience that.”

There’s a chance Miller may not play this weekend, simply because he doesn’t want his first game back to be on artificial turf. He may wait a week when the Broncos play a final preseason game at home on real grass. Denver opens the season Sept. 12 against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, which is an artificial surface.

”I didn’t want my first game after injury to be on turf, especially with the type of injury that I had,” said Miller, who was hurt on the final play of a practice last September that was moved indoors because of a snowstorm. ”But we’ll see.”

There’s a chance Sutton sees some playing time in Seattle. But only if he’s ready.

”He’s doing great,” Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. ”He’s on track and we feel good about his progress.”

Sutton certainly stands out at practice. Hard not to with those bright orange cleats and spectacular catches. Those receptions are the type he made in 2019 when he was a Pro Bowler after a 72-catch, 1,112-yard season.

The fourth-year wideout from SMU played in one game last season before tearing his ACL. He’s now wearing a protective brace as a precaution.

”I don’t really think about it too much,” Sutton said. ”It’s just there, like when I put on my thigh pads or knee pads. I’m definitely appreciative that technology has allowed us to have a nice, sleek brace.”

Although Sutton’s steadily progressing, there’s one big hurdle to clear – taking a hit.

”That’s a mental part of it but then also plays into the physical part of it because I still have to take that hit, being tackled,” Sutton said. ”I’m not really too much worried about it because it comes with the game and I love this game.”

Speed-wise, he feels as fast as ever.

”I’m not really worried about my speed on the field,” he said.

Nor is he concerned about the QB battle between Lock and Bridgewater.

”Those dudes are battling their butts off,” Sutton said. ”It’s really fun to be able to watch those dudes go to work and go and compete every single day. I’m excited for those dudes.”

Asked what it might come down to, Sutton took a diplomatic stance: ”Coach’s decision,” he said. ”That’s above my pay grade. Those are my guys. We’ll see what happens.”

NOTES: The path for Lock to become the starter is simple, in the words of Shurmur: ”Play well,” he said. … Broncos coach Vic Fangio thought Surtain might play against Seattle. … Fangio on whether Chubb and Miller will play Saturday: ”Still to be decided, but they could play.”

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