Bosa leads pass-rush pack as teams seek the next Miller
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The most coveted players in the NFL draft are, of course, the franchise-caliber quarterbacks.
The most important prospects might be the pass rushers. Just ask the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos how they snagged that shiny trophy.
“That’s pretty much the whole example I have to give. Defense won that game, 100 percent. Von Miller, he really showed what a pass rush can do for a team,” said Joey Bosa, the Ohio State defensive end who’s first in line to be the next Miller.
Widely pegged for the first pick, held this year by the Tennessee Titans, Bosa’s 6-foot-5, 269-pound frame ought to fit well in the lineup for some team at the top of the draft seeking an instant impact for the defense. He was an end in a 4-3 scheme in college, but he said Friday at the league’s scouting combine that he has incorporated pass-coverage drops into his offseason training to prepare for possibly playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 system.
“I never could have dreamed to be in this situation, being considered the No. 1 pick,” Bosa said. “It’s kind of mind blowing.”
Taking an outside pass rusher with the top slot in the draft would hardly be startling. Miller, voted the Super Bowl MVP less than three weeks ago, was the No. 2 pick in 2011 by the Broncos. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was the first selection by the Houston Texans in 2014. These days, the role is even more in demand.
“Von Millers aren’t just falling out of the sky, all over the place,” said Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, whose team could use one.
Once elite quarterbacks are established, they rarely go anywhere until retirement. Plus, only one can play at a time. With pass rushers, teams can’t have enough. Miller wouldn’t have been nearly as dominant had the Broncos not had DeMarcus Ware pressuring the pocket from the other side.
“Only so many people are walking the earth with the skill set to be big enough, athletic enough and have the traits to be able to rush the passer,” Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said. “That’s generally why they are either drafted high or get overpaid in free agency.”
The players realize this, too.
“Watching the Super Bowl, it was evident that the pass rushers took over that game,” Northwestern DE Dean Lowry said. “Even with Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, the guys on the defensive lines decided to take over. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware won that game. That just shows how important pass rushers are and how important defensive line pressure on the quarterback is. That focus is not just in the Super Bowl. It’s all the way back into the college game.”
In a deep draft for defensive linemen, tackles included, Bosa is the consensus leader of the pass-rushing pack on a list highlighted by UCLA outside linebacker Myles Jack, Oregon end DeForest Buckner, Clemson end Shaq Lawson, Ohio State outside linebacker Darron Lee, Notre Dame outside linebacker Jaylon Smith, and Eastern Kentucky end Noah Spence. Spence started at Ohio State before being kicked off the team due to a drug problem.
Bosa, whose father and uncle were each drafted in the first round by the Miami Dolphins in the late 1980s, came from the football factory St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which had the most alumni of any high school on NFL rosters last season. His younger brother, Nick, signed with Ohio State for 2016.
Bosa’s sack total dropped from 13 1-2 as a sophomore to just five as a junior last year, but he pointed to the excess of double-teams he faced.
“If I was double-teamed and not getting there, I knew somebody else was going to,” Bosa said. “As long as we’re succeeding as a defense, I was happy.”
He was suspended for the season opener, too, for an unspecified violation of athletic department policy.
“I really took that opportunity and didn’t let it affect me negatively and let it help me grow as a person, as a leader, and as a player,” Bosa said. “But I’ll discuss that with the teams. I’m sure it’ll be a little uncomfortable, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”
After spring becomes summer and summer turns to fall, Bosa will be back on the edge of the formation, making tackles — and quarterbacks uncomfortable.
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