2013 Denver Broncos: More Than Just One Player

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Broncos look in-house for Elvis Dumervil successor after sticker shock

No Dumervil? No Problem for the Broncos

Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are brothers. They have been since Miller joined the Denver Broncos in 2011. No one could have ever imagined them being on separate teams because they were Batman and Robin, an unbreakable tandem. This Spring, fans learned how much of a business the NFL is and why it’s important to use technology made in 2013 instead of the 1800s.

Loads of “experts” predict that Miller will lose a step this year because defenses will not have to focus time and energy on stopping Dumervil, too. In fact, this week NFL.com released their top five candidates to win the Deacon Jones award, a new accolade awarded to the player who has the most sacks at the end of the season beginning in 2013. Miller wasn’t on the list, mainly due to the fact mentioned above–no Dumervil.

I think the NFL experts are seriously underestimating the talent on our team.

One thing of note from Dumervil’s performance last year is that his run stop defense was extremely poor. He was ranked 54th out of 62 defensive ends in a 4-3 defense last years according to Pro Football Focus. This fact is often overlooked because of his sack stats, but poor run-defenders are often targets for opposing defenses. And although Miller wasn’t tested as much in the run game last year, he had solid effort when he was. Dumervil’s performance was dismal at best. Chris Hansen, a reporter for Bleacher Report, said in an article entitled How Losing Elvis Dumervil Could Impact Von Miller and Denver’s Defense that “almost all of Dumervil’s value to the Broncos was providing pass-rush opposite Miller. As long as the Broncos can replace Dumervil’s pass-rush production, they will have replaced most of what they lost, and for a fraction of the cost.”

The Broncos did not address their need for a pass-rusher first this off season, they addressed their need for better run stop defense. In an article for the Denver Post entitled Jack Del Rio wants Broncos’ defensive front to fit every situation, Jeff Legwold mentioned that “Del Rio wants the big guys at defensive tackle, to anchor things, take away the gaps and occupy as many blockers as possible.” Hence the reason we drafted Sylvester Williams, weighing in at 313 pounds, and grabbed Terrance Knighton, who weighs 335 pounds, during free agency. Del Rio calls Knighton the “dancing-bear type, because he’s a huge man that has the feet to go sideline-to-sideline.” While Knighton has had an up and down career, his best season was under Del Rio in Jacksonville. Another bonus to grabbing Williams and Knighton is that it means more competition at defensive tackle for the team and a bigger defensive line to block for opposing teams.

Del Rio stated earlier this spring that defensive end Derek Wolfe is “a good football player.

“He might be mislabeled on the depth chart though. He’s called (defensive) end in our base system–he really probably plays 70 percent of his snaps at (defensive) tackle, maybe more, but at least that much.”

Von Miller likened Wolfe to defensive star for the Texans, J.J. Watt. Watt and Wolfe have different talents and strengths, but Wolfe did have 6 sacks last year and 40 tackles. Miller also noted that he might have stolen some of Wolfe’s sacks in 2012. During an interview about Wolfe earlier this spring. Legwold said,

“When he goes to nickel and dime, Del Rio will usually move linebacker Von Miller into a defensive end spot, or at least into a position to rush at the line of scrimmage.”

At this time Wolfe would move to tackle instead of end. Derek’s 295 pounds represents a difficulty to anyone trying to guard him.

One fantastic thing that Derek has done this off season is become a leader in the locker room. Dumervil was highly regarded by his teammates and so many questions came after his departure. Who is going to fill that leadership void? Wolfe is a hard working, no nonsense type of player. He said,

“If you can look past the experience levels–I think that anybody that plays this game respects hard work so I just try to lead with my effort. I’m not a big vocal guy either. I just try to lead by example, do the right things and usually people will follow.”

This willingness to step up and be that kind of guy is only going to help the defense going into the season.

And no, he’s not the vocal kind of leader that we also needed, but Elway signed former San Diego Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips to do that. Not only that, last year Phillips started all 16 games, had 9.5 sacks, 3 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, and 50 tackles. Here is where Elway addressed the loss at pass-rush. Shaun is 32, three years older than Dumervil, but he’s also versatile. After signing with Denver he said,

“In San Diego I was more like a hybrid — I had my hand down 55 percent of the time, and I was in a two-point stance the other 45 percent.  It’s comfortable for me.  I’m a natural defensive end that (the Chargers) moved to linebacker, and so for me it’s like going back home if I have to put my hand in the dirt.”  

Not only will he help fill a leadership void, his contract was a bargain, which was largely noticed around the NFL. In response he said, “At this point in my career, I’ve made some money. I’ve done that so it was really just down to do you go to the team that pays you the most money and you have a miserable season? Or do you go to a team that will take care of you and give you a chance to win?” Perfect kind of attitude to have, right?

Robert Ayers is slated to start in Dumervil’s position. It really is probably his last chance to prove that he can be the caliber of player he’s always been expected to be or was drafted to be. Last year he played in 15 games and accumulated 2 sacks, 2 passes defended, and 16 tackles. That is definitely not up to par for what we need to replace Dumervil on the roster as he had 16 starts, 11 sacks, 1 safety, 1 pass defended, and 54 tackles. Ayers might not seem like the perfect replacement to Dumervil, but the fact that Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio is in Denver for a second year will help him in many ways. It is the first time that he has had consistency at Defensive Coordinator.

The Broncos drafted defensive end Quanterus Smith this spring and although he is recovering from ACL surgery, he is recovering quickly and they expect him to be healthy by July. He is well known for his three sacks against Alabama this past college season. It is likely that he, too, will get an opportunity to rush the passer this year. Malik Jackson, who saw a few reps last year during his rookie season, will also have an opportunity to fight for snaps during training camp. We also can’t forget about Mitch Unrein and what he brings to both the offense and the defense. How can you forget the pass-rush he provided against Josh Freeman that led up to Miller’s first pick six!

All is not lost. Great teams can recover from a fax snafu like Dumervil’s if they’re smart. John Elway, John Fox, and Del Rio are a pretty smart crew. It basically boiled down to the fact that Elway was unwilling to pay Dumervil more than he was worth to the team, or in free agency. Hansen said also that

“The presence of Miller made Dumervil expendable, which also drove down his value to the Broncos. Part of the reason Dumervil received a better deal with the Ravens was because of their need for a pass-rusher to replace the exodus of Paul Kruger.”

It must be noted that the team did not think that “his pay matched his performance,” which is why Elway refused to change his offer to Dumervil after the fax snafu. Dumervil did sign in Baltimore for more money and has aspirations to win a Super Bowl. He missed the boat on getting a ring by a year, however. This is the Broncos year to win the Super Bowl and they will do it without Dumervil on the roster. They will do it without Miller missing a step and with Miller winning the Deacon Jones award in February.

Why?

Because of the versatility of talent present on the Broncos defense. We have the coaching and player talent to make up for Dumervil’s leadership skills and 11 sacks last year. Anybody underestimating us does not realize that this team is larger than one player.

Go Broncos!

-Tiffany Catellier

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