Broncos Update Insider- 10/30

Elvis Dumervil has gone from never playing linebacker to being a strong early candidate to make the Pro Bowl at that position.

Dumervil was moved from his usual defensive end position when the Denver Broncos switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment this offseason. He wasn't comfortable at linebacker but kept working, and the coaches vowed to put him in positions to succeed.

Dumervil has started the season faster than anyone expected. He goes into Sunday's game against Baltimore leading the NFL with 10 sacks. He is the fastest to 10 sacks in NFL history, tying the record set by New York Giants end Michael Strahan in 2001, when he set the NFL record with 22.5 sacks.

Dumervil is on pace for 27 sacks, and knows that he has a chance to break the single-season record. If Dumervil continues at his current pace, his pursuit of the sack record will start to get plenty of attention.

"They're going to start talking about it, but I've got to continue to do what I do and not get off track and worry about those things," Dumervil said. "When you start thinking about that, you get out of your defensive strategy and try to make individual plays."

This week, Dumervil could go against Jared Gaither, who is coming off a serious neck injury, or rookie Michael Oher or Marshal Yanda if Gaither can't go. Oher is athletic and the Broncos might move Dumervil around to get a better matchup.

That's why the Broncos are confident Dumervil can continue to pressure the quarterback consistently. They move him from the left side in the base defense to anywhere on the field - left side, right side, even some defensive end - in passing situations. Opponents can't double team him as easily if they can't predict where Dumervil will be.

"It becomes difficult as a coordinator on the offensive side, to say 'We want the back to help the tackle," Denver coach Josh McDaniels said. "If you don't know which tackle needs the help, it's hard to tell the back where to go."

Dumervil's fantastic start to the season is surprising because of the position change, but the Broncos have used him correctly. He rarely drops in coverage because the Broncos are aware that isn't his strength. He has mostly rushed the quarterback from his outside linebacker spot.

Also, Dumervil has continued to understand the position. Even though he is riding some success, he still maintains that he is nowhere near being proficient at outside linebacker yet.

As for the record, Dumervil won't worry about it. It certainly wouldn't hurt him in free agency - he is in the final year of his rookie contract - but he won't let it affect his play.

"If it happens it would be great," Dumervil said. "If not, fine, as long as we're winning."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Broncos safety Brian Dawkins and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis have a lot in common - their energy on game day, leadership and a track record of Pro Bowls and big plays. The two speak often and have a lot of respect for each other.

"Love him, love him," Dawkins said. "Love his energy he brings, love the leadership he provides, his playmaking and his vocal leadership. He's one of those guys I call warriors. Throughout the years, time and time again, you can count on him year in and year out to give everything to the last drop."

--Broncos coach Josh McDaniels explained that the team made a change from Brett Kern to Mitch Berger at punter because he wanted a veteran who could make every directional punt the Broncos ask of him.

"It certainly wasn't anything where something where Brett was the only person that made mistakes or did things we didn't like on the punt team, but we felt like at this point with the things we're asking our punter to do that Mitch would give us an opportunity to improve in that area," McDaniels said.

--A heavy snowfall in Denver disrupted the Broncos' practice plans a bit this week. McDaniels, who has said he will have his team practice in any conditions, couldn't figure a way to practice through blizzard conditions Wednesday. The team moved to an indoor practice bubble down the road.

"If we can have a productive practice outside, we are going to be outside, period," McDaniels said. "It seems at this point that won't be able to be the case."

--Eddie Royal was named AFC special teams player of the month. He returned a punt and kickoff for a touchdown against San Diego, the first time in franchise history a player has returned a punt and kickoff for a touchdown in the same game. The Broncos have won that award twice in two months: kicker Matt Prater won the award in September.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15-5 -- Denver's record the week after its bye, the fourth-best mark in the NFL.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They're physical, man, very physical. That's the key, if we can match their physicality and prepare better than them, it gives us a chance." -- Broncos linebacker Andra Davis on the Ravens.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The move from Brett Kern to Mitch Berger at punter signifies that the Broncos are still trying to improve their special teams. The offense and defense have played very well over a 6-0 start, but McDaniels has expressed some concern over the special teams.

Berger should help with the consistency level of the special teams. Kern was up and down during the first six weeks of the season. Also, the Broncos have improved on special teams already, after a miserable year last season. McDaniels would like to see Denver take another step forward in that area after the bye.

PLAYER NOTES

--DT Marcus Thomas could get more playing time Sunday with Ronald Fields battling a hamstring injury. Thomas isn't as big as Fields but has played well in spot duty at nose tackle.

--CB Alphonso Smith could still see some time in the return game. Although Eddie Royal is playing well, the Broncos don't want to wear him out. Smith will be ready if needed.

--TE Richard Quinn hasn't played too much behind Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffler. Having those veterans ahead of him means the rookie can be brought along slowly, although he has had roles in jumbo packages and on special teams.

--LB Spencer Larsen could resume his role as lead blocker in the Broncos' short-yardage running game now that he is ready to return from a shoulder injury. The Broncos have struggled in short-yardage situations all season.

--WR Kenny McKinley has played special teams but hasn't been involved in the offense as a rookie. McKinley can wait and learn behind the four veterans ahead of him who are a big part of Denver's passing game.

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