Denver Broncos: Why the Team Won't Miss Elvis Dumervil

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Denver Broncos: Why the Team Won't Miss Elvis Dumervil
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In one of the strangest NFL stories in years, the Denver Broncos lost Elvis Dumervil in the middle of March thanks to an error concerning a fax machine, among other things.

This came after talks between the team and Dumervil in which the Broncos had asked Dumervil to take a pay cut. After the revelation of how Dumervil became a free agent, it begged the question of how bad did the team really want to keep him?

Dumervil ultimately wound up with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, leaving the Broncos to find someone to replace the man who sits at No. 4 on the team's all-time sack list.

While the loss of a player who could get to the quarterback like Dumervil seemed tough to overcome, the Broncos likely aren't too concerned.

They have three players in place who will combine to produce at the level of the three-time Pro Bowler Dumervil.

 

Robert Ayers

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Ayers gets his mits on Tom Brady

Ayers has never lived up to the first-round draft choice the team used on him in 2009, but he showed flashes in pass-rushing situations last season.

Under the direction of new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, Ayers looked like he was progressing into a player Broncos fans can be excited about, rather than one who they consider a draft bust.

Ayers will be asked to be on the field a lot more this year than he was last, but he will be given every opportunity to be a starter at defensive end.

The area where Ayers may be a huge improvement over what they had in Dumervil is as a run-stopper.

Ayers and Derek Wolfe should start the season at the defensive end positions and with all the attention that linebacker Von Miller will draw, Ayers should definitely have his opportunities.

Three sacks is the most Ayers has collected in a single season. He should have no trouble doubling that number in 2013.

 

Shaun Phillips

Phillips is a player that the Broncos know very well from his days in San Diego.

Despite meeting with free-agent pass-rushers Dwight Freeney and John Abraham this offseason, the Broncos signed Phillips while the NFL draft was going on.

Quietly, this was one of the best signings in the entire NFL this offseason.

Will the combination of Ayers, Phillips and Q. Smith sufficiently replace Dumervil?

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Phillips brings 69.5 career sacks with him to Denver and has had at least 11 sacks in a season twice.

The Broncos will be able to play Phillips all over the defensive formation as he has the ability to play linebacker, even dropping back in coverage, or lining up as a defensive end.

This flexibility can make a guy like Miller that much more dangerous.

Denver loved to get a big lead in games last season and then just let the dogs loose, sending a wave of rushers at the opposing quarterback.

That is a situation in which Phillips would thrive.

 

Quanterus Smith

Quanterus Smith blows by D.J. Fluker to bring down QB A.J. McCarron

The third piece of the 2013 Broncos that will help fill the void left by Dumervil is the team's fifth-round draft choice, Quanterus Smith.

Playing his college ball at Western Kentucky, he may have been a relative unknown in the 2013 NFL draft.

Though he may come from a small school, he doesn't lack ability. That was evidenced when his Hilltoppers took on the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide last season. Smith had three sacks in that game.

Smith is an athletic defensive end who is definitely going to catch the eye of many in training camp and preseason.

He tore his ACL in November of last year and he will need to show he has fully recovered from that.

At this point, Smith is a developmental pass-rushing prospect for the Broncos, but his upside is immense. He could easily be a starter at the defensive end position, much sooner than later.

The Broncos have put together a solid package of players which will make opposing teams question who and when to double team.

Teams will always be mindful of where Miller is, but you can't block everybody.

Dumervil had several productive years with the Broncos but between Ayers, Phillips, Smith and the rest of the players Denver has on the defensive side of the ball, they won't see a drop off in production at all.

Will Dumervil be able to do what he did in Denver as a member of the Ravens? That may be an even bigger question.

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