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Patriots notebook

Broncos’ Miller an inside-out threat

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / December 16, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH - The Bronco everyone has their eyes on may be Tim Tebow, but the one the Patriots will have to be on the lookout for is their quarterback-eating rookie linebacker Von Miller.

The issue will be figuring out where he’s coming from.

“They move him around some,’’ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said yesterday. “Occasionally they line him up inside and he really presents a problem for the centers and guards in there because of his quickness.

“Normally, he’s on the outside. He’s got the whole [package]. He can run the edge, he can come inside, he’s very quick and athletic, but he’s got good power and he’s a really strong player, too. You just can’t sit back and wait for him to make some kind of athletic move; he’ll run them over.’’

Miller has 11 1/2 sacks, with at least one in his past four games, and 49 of his 62 tackles are solos.

“He’s very good in pursuit,’’ Belichick said. “He makes a lot of plays downfield after the ball is thrown. He’ll chase a guy down, for a 5-, 6-, 7-yard gain and try to strip the ball as he’s tackling him. He’s not out of a lot of plays.’’

The Patriots have only given up 22 sacks this season (tied for fifth fewest in the league). Since hitting the deck three times against Kansas City in Week 11, Tom Brady hasn’t been sacked in a game more than once.

“Von, for a rookie, he came in and obviously he’s a pretty talented guy,’’ said Patriots left tackle Matt Light. “So we’ve got our work cut out for us.’’

Praise for Magazu

John Fox was fired by the Panthers after last season and quickly hired to coach the Broncos. He made sure to bring offensive line guru Dave Magazu with him.

The Springfield native made a name for himself as one of the best offensive line coaches in college football. He spent four seasons at Boston College (1999-2002), and with linemen such as Dan Koppen and Chris Snee, the Eagles had a reputation for eating up yards on the ground and not letting anyone near their quarterback.

“He’s a heck of a football coach,’’ Fox said. “He did a great job there at BC and when I first met him and I hired him at the Carolina Panthers. He came in as the tight end coach and he earned that respect of the players and the staff and became the offensive line coach. I’m glad to have him here with the Denver Broncos.’’

A score to settle

With the way Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s been finding the end zone (15 touchdowns), Aaron Hernandez was asked if he’s told Gronkowski to save some for him.

Hernandez joked, “I’ve got to worry about catching them.’’

Hernandez has five TDs this season, and even though he’s caught 30 passes in the past six weeks, none have been for touchdowns.

“Rob does a lot of great things for us,’’ Tom Brady said. “Aaron does equally great things. The most important part is they’ve been out there every day in practice. I know Aaron was banged up a little bit earlier this season, but his consistency and dependability since he’s been out there in practice has really improved.

“He’s a very excitable kind of guy and he’s got a great attitude. You talk about a guy that loves football - no one loves football more than Aaron Hernandez. He’s a great teammate and I love being out there with him.’’

Practice updates

Patrick Chung (foot) and Sebastian Vollmer (foot, back) missed practice yesterday. Among the limiteds: Kyle Arrington (foot), Brady (non-injury related), Deion Branch (groin), Dan Connolly (groin), Julian Edelman (back), Dane Fletcher (thumb), James Ihedigbo (shoulder), Devin McCourty (shoulder), Matthew Slater (shoulder), Brandon Spikes (knee), Shane Vereen (hamstring), Wes Welker (knee), Ryan Wendell (calf), Vince Wilfork (non-injury related), and Danny Woodhead (abdomen) . . . The Patriots released defensive back Malcolm Williams, their seventh-round pick in 2011. Williams had two stints on the practice squad, but saw time on the 53-man roster on special teams last week against the Redskins.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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