On a roll, Miller heads to Lewis' turf

On a roll, Miller heads to Lewis' turf

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Almost any time Ray Lewis has lined up over the last 17 years, he has been the best linebacker - if not the best player - on the field.

If Lewis is in uniform Sunday when the Ravens play the Broncos that might not be the case.

With his rare combination of around-the-corner speed and nimble footwork that helps him beat offensive tackles, then dance over fallen quarterbacks, Denver's Von Miller is changing the equation.

``I looked up to him when I was younger,'' the 23-year-old Miller said of Lewis, the two-time defensive player of the year and a seven-time Associated Press All-Pro. ``I look up to him now.''

While Lewis has spent the better part of the season on injured reserve with a torn triceps, Miller is staking out Lewis' old territory, as arguably the most disruptive linebacker in the game.

He was last year's defensive rookie of the year and is a favorite to be named this year's defensive player of the year. He heads into the 14th game of the season with 16 sacks, one short of Elvis Dumervil's single-season franchise record. Miller has at least one sack in the past six games, along with six forced fumbles and a total of 24 tackles in opposing team's backfields.

In other words, he is a player opposing offenses must account for in their game plans, and if that sounds familiar in Baltimore, it should. Teams have been planning around Lewis for years.

``They're both extremely passionate, they both love to play, they both disrupt games. That's about where the similarities end,'' said Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who also coached Lewis during his early years in Baltimore. ``Both of them are extremely different in how they impact games. Ray was probably the best inside linebacker to ever play. ... Von's an amazing edge guy, a sack man, a guy who can disrupt. I'd like to have both of them, but I'm sure glad we have Von.''

Among the story lines following Miller this week are the three fines he's received from the NFL this year - for hits on quarterbacks Matt Schaub of the Texans, Cam Newton of the Panthers and Josh Freeman of the Buccaneers.

Miller has appealed all the fines. He said the Schaub one has been upheld but that he hasn't heard back on the other two. He said he isn't trying to hurt anyone but won't change the way he plays.

``It really doesn't bother me too much, because I know that's not the type of player I am,'' Miller said. ``It's just the type of circumstances that happened that put me in those positions.''

Lewis is eligible to come off the injured reserve list this week, though Ravens coach John Harbaugh isn't tipping his hand. Not knowing whether they'll face him, a number of the Broncos said they have to be prepared for Lewis' intensity if he is in uniform come Sunday.

``I've always kind of kidded that Ray is just as intense and passionate in the fourth quarter of the fourth preseason game as he is in the first quarter of a playoff game,'' said Peyton Manning, who is 8-0 against Lewis and the Ravens, including playoffs, since 2002. ``It's real, and that's pretty special and pretty unique.''

Miller, who likes to speak of his ``fanatical effort,'' shows all signs that he can match Lewis' intensity and, like Lewis, that he can do it with his own signature flair. Lewis' trademark is ``The Squirrel'' - the frenetic dance he does when he comes out of the tunnel during pregame introductions. Miller prefers to do his dancing after he sacks the quarterback.

The linebackers haven't crossed paths often but when they do, Miller tries to take advantage.

``I've had the opportunity, the blessing, just to be in his presence and talk to him and pick his mind a little bit, so that's great,'' Miller said.

Miller's second-year surge has been as big a boost for the Broncos on defense as Manning's arrival has been for the offense. It's a big reason the Broncos are 10-3, with the AFC West title already secured and a chance at a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Denver has the fourth-ranked defense in yards allowed and has given up fewer points than anyone in the AFC. Denver has 39 sacks this season, tied for second in the NFL, and Miller's presence accounts for more than just the 16 he's recorded.

``In my eyes, I think he's been, all around, maybe the defensive player of the year,'' Dumervil said. ``He's been really working at all phases of the game. He's a big part of what we've got accomplished so far so it's been great.''

Notes: LB Wesley Woodyard (ankle) was limited in practice Thursday. Told of Woodyard's statement that he would definitely play against the Ravens, Broncos coach John Fox said, ``Sometimes we're all legends in our own mind. We'll be day-to-day and we'll see how that goes.'' ... Manning needs 188 yards to hit 4,000 yards for the 12th time. ... The Broncos lead the league by outscoring their opponents by 71 points in the fourth quarter. Chicago is next at plus-47.

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Three things to know about Ravens fourth-round pick Chris Moore

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Three things to know about Ravens fourth-round pick Chris Moore

Three things to know about Ravens fourth-round pick (107), wide receiver Chris Moore from the University of Cincinnati:

1. Moore’s college breakout game came against Ohio St in 2014.

Everybody in the Buckeyes’ secondary who played against Moore remembers him. Moore had three catches for 221 yards and three touchdowns, and he also had a 40-yard touchdown nullified by a penalty. On two of those touchdowns, Moore burned highly-touted Ohio St. defensive backs - cornerback Eli Apple, who was drafted No. 10 overall by the Giants, and safety Vonn Bell, who went to the Saints in Round 2.

“When it came time to play against the best talent, I performed,” Moore said.

2. At 6-foot-2, 190 pound, Moore has the frame to be more than just a deep receiver.

“I practice running every route, every single day,” Moore said. “I run all the short routes too, so I’m not just a deep threat.”

3. The biggest knock on Moore is the drops he had in college.

The Ravens coaching staff, particularly wide receiver coach Bobby Engram, will be looking for ways to improve Moore’s concentration and technique.

Fifth-rounder becomes Baltimore's first 2016 draft pick to sign

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Fifth-rounder becomes Baltimore's first 2016 draft pick to sign

The Ravens have signed fifth-round draft pick Matt Judon, CSN has confirmed through an NFL source. Judon became the first of the Ravens’ 11 draft picks to sign, reaching agreement on a four-year, $2.595 million deal.

Judon led all of college football with 20 sacks last season at Grand Valley State, and will likely make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in the Ravens’ 3-4 defense. His combination of size (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) and quickness caught the eye of Ravens’ scouts at the combine, and he fit their desire to improve their pass rush in this draft.

“He’s an explosive pass rusher, which is something that was obviously of interest to us,” Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said after the draft. “I should also say that Joe Cullen, who works with our defensive line and rush linebackers, was really, really excited. This was a guy that we thought was an outstanding prospect, and he (Cullen) spent a lot of time with him this spring, and we felt very, very good about his ability to come in and help us right away.”

AFC North: Manziel struggles continue, as does Browns search for franchise QB

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AFC North: Manziel struggles continue, as does Browns search for franchise QB

Watching Johnny Manziel make his court appearance Thursday on domestic violence charges was another reminder of how badly many of the Browns’ quarterback decisions have turned out.

Just two years ago, Manziel was the 22nd overall pick, and the Browns hoped he would be the answer to their quarterback problems. How wrong that looks now, with Manziel out of the NFL, with an uncertain future both on and off the field.

The Browns’ decision to take Manziel in 2014 looks even worse when you consider:

- Two other starting quarterbacks were drafted after Manziel in 2014 – Teddy Bridgewater of the Vikings (No. 32) and Derek Carr of the Raiders (No. 36). 

- Eight first-round picks in the 2014 draft have already made the Pro Bowl – linebackers Anthony Barr (Vikings), Khalil Mack (Raiders), and C. J. Mosley (Ravens); wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants), defensive tackle Aaron Donald (Rams); guard Zach Martin (Cowboys); cornerback Jason Verrett (Chargers), and Bridgewater.

The Browns’ new regime of executive VP Sashi Brown, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, and coach Hue Jackson could have spent another first-round pick on a quarterback this year. Instead, they signed Robert Griffin III during free agency, traded down out of the No. 2 spot in the draft, acquired some valuable draft picks, and waited until Round 3 to draft quarterback Cody Kessler of USC in the third round.

The Browns aren’t sure Griffin or Kessler will solve their quarterback problems either. But it’s hard to blame them for avoiding spending another first-round pick on a quarterback. Not after seeing how far Manziel has fallen so fast.