Bron­cos’ Von Miller a big fan of Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Nfl -

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N. J. — Von Miller ac­knowl­edges he’s no draft guru and is far from any kind of ex­pert when it comes to quar­ter­backs. Well, ex­cept for sack­ing them, of course.

But the Den­ver Bron­cos star line­backer knew there was some­thing spe­cial about Sam Darnold long be­fore the New York Jets made him the No. 3 over­all pick.

“I don’t know noth­ing about draft­ing a quar­ter­back or any­thing like that, but I thought he was the No. 1 pick, for sure,” Miller said. “I thought he was the best of­fen­sive player in the draft.”

The Jets sure thought so, even if the teams ahead of them took guys on of­fense ahead of Darnold. Cleve­land made quar­ter­back Baker May­field the No. 1 over­all pick, while the Gi­ants went with run­ning back Saquon Barkley with the next se­lec­tion.

The Jets pounced on Darnold when their turn came up, and Miller can’t blame them.

“Baker May­field was the No. 1 pick, and right­fully so,” Miller said. “But in my opin­ion, watch­ing ev­ery­thing, from a pass rusher’s point of view, I just felt like ( Darnold) was the No. 1 pick in the draft. He wasn’t the No. 1 pick, but he’s def­i­nitely play­ing like it.”

Well, not quite. But Mill- er will get a chance for an up- close eval­u­a­tion Sun­day when the Bron­cos ( 2- 2) travel to MetLife Sta­dium to take on Darnold’s Jets

( 1- 3).

Darnold had a ter­rific NFL de­but with two touch­down throws in New York’s win at De­troit, but has strug­gled a bit in the three games since — all losses — along with the rest of the Jets’ of­fense. He has just two TD passes in that span and four in­ter­cep­tions, although he didn’t toss one last Sun­day at Jack­sonville.

“As a team, I feel like we are re­ally close, and for me per­son­ally I feel like I’m just on the edge,” Darnold said. “I’ve just got to con­tinue to find com­ple­tions, hit my guys deep when they’re there. It’ll come, it’s just a tim­ing thing. It’s go­ing to click one of these games, I know it is.”

This might be a tough week to get things go­ing, though. Es­pe­cially while fac­ing a de­fense led by Miller, who has four sacks and two forced fum­bles this sea­son.

And, Darnold re­al­izes Miller will be look­ing to add to those to­tals — de­spite all the high praise.

“It’s pretty cool that he said it,” Darnold said. “It’s def­i­nitely very hum­bling, very flat­ter­ing, but at the same time, we’re go­ing up against him. … I’m just go­ing to go out there and we’re go­ing to han­dle him the way that we need to and go about our busi­ness that way.”

Here are some other things to know about the matchup be­tween the Bron­cos and Jets:

ON THE CASE

Bron­cos quar­ter­back Case Keenum had three touch­down passes in Den­ver’s 27- 24 sea­son- open­ing win against Seat­tle.

He has none in the three games since.

Keenum, who signed a two- year, $ 36 mil­lion deal with Den­ver in March, is the first Bron­cos QB since John El­way in 1986 to go three straight games with at least 20 throws and no TDs.

SKID­DING

The Jets are look­ing to snap a three- game los­ing streak and avoid their fourth four- game skid un­der coach Todd Bowles.

New York ended last sea­son by los­ing four in a row, and also dropped that many twice in 2016 — with the team fin­ish­ing 5- 11 both years. Bowles is in his fourth sea­son with the Jets and the heat has been turned up a bit un­der his seat. New York is 1- 7 in its past eight, and 3- 12 in the past 15.

ON NO­TICE

The Bron­cos are com­ing off their first loss in 66 home games in which they held a dou­ble- digit lead in the fourth quar­ter, and no­body is spared crit­i­cism over Den­ver’s Mon­day night melt­down in a 27- 23 loss to the Chiefs.

“We need more from our main guys on both sides of the ball,” coach Vance Joseph said of the Bron­cos’ cra­ter­ing in crunch time. And from the coaches. “The bot­tom line is in this league in tough games, we have to be our best as coaches when it mat­ters,” Joseph said. “You can call a great game for 31⁄ quar­ters,

2 but for half a quar­ter when the game is on the line, we have to be our best. That is my job to help our play­ers pull these games out.”

BUTT OUT

Keenum said he was en­cour­aged by the way Jeff Heuer­man played Mon­day night ( four catches for 57 yards, both ca­reer highs) af­ter Jake Butt blew out his left knee at a spe­cial- teams prac­tice last week, de­priv­ing the Bron­cos of their top tight end for the rest of the sea­son.

Keenum said he thinks Heuer­man can be the kind of safety valve he’s had at that po­si­tion at other times in his ca­reer, such as last year in Min­nesota with Kyle Ran­dolph.

“Yeah, I think Jeff’s a great player. I think he showed it the other night that he’s in the right place at the right time, big tar­get and he’s hard to tackle,” Keenum said. “So, a guy I’m ex­cited to get the ball to more and more.”

WIPE OUT

If Jets run­ning back Isa­iah Crow­ell gets into the end zone, all eyes will be on how he cel­e­brates.

He was pe­nal­ized and given a stern talk­ing to by Bowles af­ter he cel­e­brated his sec­ond TD run of the game by wip­ing the ball against his rear end and fir­ing it into the stands. Crow­ell ended up get­ting fined $ 13,369 by the NFL for un­sports­man­like con­duct.

“It won’t hap­pen again,” said Crow­ell, who didn’t score at Jack­sonville last Sun­day — but got an en­dorse­ment deal from a com­pany that sells a toi­let pa­per al­ter­na­tive for men.

David Za­lubowski / As­so­ci­ated Press

Kan­sas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce ( 87) is tack­led by Den­ver Bron­cos line­backer Von Miller on Mon­day in Den­ver. Miller had high praise for New York Jets rookie quar­ter­back Sam Darnold, who he will be fac­ing on Sun­day.

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