Elvis Dumervil was arrested over the weekend for assault with a deadly weapon, a third-degree felony. The district attorney will have to decide if the evidence is enough to support charging Dumervil, but that may not be the case with Roger Goodell.
Goodell has god-like powers as judge and jury of discipline under the NFL's personal conduct policy and this is not Dumervil's first such incident, having been cited for disturbing the peace and assault in 2010. While it is very early to speculate on a possible suspension for Dumervil, the Broncos now have to prepare for games without him.
The Broncos have taken steps to shore up the defensive end spot behind Dumervil, but a prolonged absence could still negatively impact a defense that will be without linebacker D.J. Williams for the first four games of the 2012 season. Dumervil is about as good of a bet to get 10 sacks as any player in the league, and there isn't a viable pass-rusher sitting on the bench waiting for snaps.
Since the Broncos drafted Dumervil, he has accounted for 26.6 percent of the team's sacks. Excluding 2010, Dumervil has contributed 30.2 percent of the sacks for the Broncos. Even with the addition of Von Miller, Dumervil still contributed 23.2 percent of the teams sacks in 2011. That's a heck of a contribution and one the Broncos can not easily replace.
It's worth considering how the Broncos can survive without Dumervil when he's been so vital to the team's success since being drafted. In fact, the team is 24-11 in games in which Dumervil has at least a half sack and 12-24 in games that Dumervil plays and does not record a sack.
Dumervil missing the 2010 season had a lot to do with the Broncos' 4-12 mark that year and contributed to the firing of Josh McDaniels. Whatever the case, the coaching staff should be mindful that Peyton Manning doesn't play defense and that they need to get the young talent on the roster in the position to play in the even Dumervil misses time due to injury, suspension or jail time.
In the event Dumervil is suspended or otherwise misses time, Jason Hunter would likely start. Hunter started 12 games in 2010 when Dumervil missed the entire season with a torn pectoral muscle. Hunter is not really a pass-rusher and has just 11 career sacks in six professional seasons.
Perhaps no player has more upside and more potential to help the Broncos at defensive end than Malik Jackson. He's athletic, but he's still a raw prospect, and he's moving from defensive tackle to defensive end, where the Broncos hope he can become an every-down type of player. He'll need a strong camp to get into the rotation his first year, but should be in the mix should there be an injury or two.
After a year on the practice squad, Jeremy Beal is hoping to contribute in his second year. He was a very productive college player, but had a poor combine and didn't work out well pre-draft and fell to the Broncos in the seventh round of the 2011 draft. Beal can help as a situational pass-rusher in the event Dumervil is not available, but isn't likely to be an every-down player capable of stepping into a starting role.
An unexpected contributor could come from the remaining options on the roster, but when Dumervil is the player that might need to be replaced, a contributor might not be enough.