Elvis Dumervil came to Denver fresh off one of the most prolific pass-rushing and playmaking seasons for any college defensive lineman in recent memory. Questions nevertheless arose about his 5-foot-11 stature after the Broncos used a fourth-round pick on him, but the answer to those were simple — he simply found himself at the epicenter of the play too often to be ignored. That was “the biggest factor” in the decision to select him, General Manager Ted Sundquist said.
“If he is not making the tackle, he’s forcing the quarterback into somebody else,” Sundquist said last May. “And for a guy who most people critiqued as being too short for the position, he plays the run extremely well. We drafted him at that spot with the thought of him being a pass-rush specialist, and we’ll just have to see if he makes an immediate impact.”
That would be an affirmative.
All Dumervil did was lead the Broncos in sacks, notch more sacks for any Denver rookie since Mike Croel in 1991 (and more sacks for any rookie defensive lineman since Rulon Jones in 1980).
“I think the biggest asset that he has is his size, being able to get underneath the offensive linemen,” defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban said. “His reach is actually long for a guy of his stature.”
Dumervil’s rookie campaign crested in his second and third games after being activated for the first time on Oct. 9 against Baltimore. In the home win over the Oakland Raiders six days later, he notched two sacks; a week later against the Browns, he overshadowed his fellow linemen’s collective return to Cleveland by logging three sacks, matching the single-game rookie record established by Jones 26 years earlier.
“He doesn’t know how good he has it right now,” Ekuban said at the time.
Indeed, that would be where his season crested. While his playing time remained substantial and he never returned to the game-day inactive list, he would have fewer sacks over the last 10 games of the year than he did in Weeks 6 and 7 — 3.5 from Weeks 8-17, although 1.5 of those came in the season’s final two games.
That allowed him to seize the club’s sack lead with 8.5 — which was 4.5 more than any Bronco bagged in 2005.
Nevertheless, he emerged from the season cognizant of what he needed to do to improve — to become a more consistent pass rusher and more effective against the run. Doing both might allow him to leap into the starting lineup.
“I’ve still got a lot to learn,” Dumervil said.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Ranked third among NFL rookies in sacks in 2006, behind only Chicago’s Mark Anderson (12) and Cleveland’s Kamerion Wimbley (11). Kansas City defensive end Tamba Hali, selected three rounds before Dumervil, was right behind the University of Louisville product with eight sacks … Lined up for 319 snaps in 2006, an average of 24.5 times per game in the 13 weeks he played … With five sacks in Weeks 6-7, Dumervil became the only player in the Mike Shanahan era to log five sacks over the course of consecutive games. He is also the first player of the Shanahan era to notch back-to-back multiple-sack games.
NEXT: Defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban.