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Broncos’ Dumervil uses compact size to his advantage

PAT GRAHAM
AP Sports Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – With his long arms and low center of gravity, Elvis Dumervil was just the hybrid player the Denver Broncos were coveting for their conversion to a 3-4 scheme.

Convincing him, though, took some work.

Initially, Dumervil balked at being moved to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s new formation. He liked his defensive end spot, had perfected some pretty good rush moves from there.



Any reservations Dumervil may have had went out the window Sunday, when he sacked Cleveland’s Brady Quinn four times to tie a franchise mark.

Maybe this system does suit his style?



“I still have a lot to learn,” Dumervil said. “But I feel like I am going the right direction.”

Dumervil is giving opposing offensive linemen fits trying to figure him out. He’s 5-foot-11 with a massive wing span and lots of speed.

Push him to the outside? He’ll use his quickness to get to the quarterback.



Try to knock him to the turf? He’s already so low, he simply bounces right back up.

Bottle him up? He’ll use his leverage advantage to gain separation.

“I’ve always had tremendous respect for him,” Oakland coach Tom Cable said. “He’s always a handful. He’s a competitor and he brings it every snap … To me, this was not really a breakout game. I think this guy has been a good player for a while.”

He’s been trying to convince everyone of that for years.

Dumervil had 78 sacks at Jackson High School in Miami, but wasn’t highly recruited. His size scared some schools away.

So he wound up at the University of Louisville, where he had 20 sacks his senior year and captured the Bronko Nagurski Award, given to the nation’s best defender.

Again, he wasn’t highly sought after, slipping into the fourth round of the 2006 draft, where the Broncos selected him to bolster their lackluster pass rush. He repaid the faith with 8 1-2 sacks in his rookie season.

Now four years in, he has 30 career sacks.

“He plays with a chip on his shoulder,” linebacker Andra Davis said. “He goes out there each and every week and proves he can get the job done. I watched him at Louisville – 20 sacks in one season? You don’t just stumble across those type of numbers.”

Kenny Peterson towers over Dumervil and weighs nearly 50 pounds more. Peterson, not Dumervil, looks more like the prototypical defensive lineman.

Still, Peterson can’t help but be a little envious of Dumervil, whose frame is perfectly streamlined to get to the quarterback in a hurry.

“After every game, we sit and talk. I’m always like, ‘How do you do it?'” Peterson said. “It’s something he can’t really explain.”

What it boils down to is leverage. Dumervil gets so low that he creeps underneath a bigger player’s pads. From there he simply pushes them aside and pursues the quarterback.

At least that’s what Nolan has observed.

“He’s short, so he play from a leverage standpoint often,” Nolan said. “He’s also a good competitor. He accepts the challenge very well.”

The challenge this offseason was daunting to Dumervil. Learning how to play from a stand-up position took some getting used to.

But the 3-4 alignment allows him to move around more, placing him into positions where he can utilize his leverage and speed.

“(Nolan) allows you to go out there and make plays. He is very aggressive,” Dumervil said. “A lot of guys are making plays, and he tries to put each person in a situation to try to make the best of the talent … I couldn’t be happier.”

He’s also serving as a mentor. Rookie Robert Ayers was in a similar boat as Dumervil, adjusting to life as a hybrid defensive end-linebacker. He frequently asked Dumervil for advice.

“The one thing I learned from him is he looks at football and his job differently than most people,” Ayers said. “He’s taught me so much about how to rush the passer and study other people. Just things that you take for granted.”

Kind of like the diminutive Dumervil.


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