When The Smoke Clears

The Denver Broncos are the gold standard of the NFL at the moment.  They are a perfect 6-0 with perhaps the league MVP in Peyton Manning as the leader.  Come Sunday, one of the league's most dynamic defensive players will be added to the mix.  Von Miller, who is returning from serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's drug abuse policy, will make the Broncos even more formidable.

Miller is an All-Pro linebacker who became the first Broncos player to earn a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first two NFL seasons.  He is tied for third-most sacks (30) by an NFL player in his first two years (since 1982), including 18.5 sacks during the 2012 campaign to set a franchise single-season record.  But with the cloud that now surrounds his character and missing half of the 2013 season, is Von Miller still destined for greatness?  When the smoke clears will he become the greatest Broncos defensive player in history?  For now, this distinction belongs to the "Smiling Assassin".

Physical. Athletic. Versatile. Great.  These are some of the words used to describe the eight-time Pro Bowl safety Steve Atwater, who is a once in a generation type player.  Drafted with the 20th overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft, he quickly became the heartbeat of the Broncos D.  In 11 seasons, Atwater had nearly 1,200 tackles, 24 interceptions and five fumble recoveries.  However it was his ferocity and punishing style of play that fans remember most.  (That and the vicious hit he put on the Chiefs' Christian Okoye in week 2 of the 1990 season)

With John Elway championing the Broncos offense to two back-to-back Super Bowls in 1998 and 1999, it was Atwater who was the glue holding up the other side.  And while few safeties have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, many believe it is only a matter of time before his name is called.  

So will Von Miller reach this status as a Broncos defender?  Only time will tell, but if he can regain the trust of his teammates and the Denver organization along with continuing his high level of production, he is well on his way.