Denver Broncos | News

Replacing Dumervil a Collaborative Effort

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The time for fretting over fax machines is long since past; complaining about the circumstances that led to Elvis Dumervil in a Ravens uniform will do the Broncos no good.

"Losing Elvis -- it's not fun for anybody, it's not fun for me, it's not fun for this team, it's not fun for this defense," said defensive lineman Derek Wolfe. "But, you know, that's the game. It's a business and sometimes things like that happen."

Added Woodyard: "I'll miss Elvis, but he's going to be doing his own thing in Baltimore ... Things happen. I talked to Doom a lot throughout the offseason, and me and him talk, we're still friends. He's excited about new opportunities, and so are we."

Someone will get those sacks and forced fumbles -- and it won't just be Von Miller. Someone will wear the captain's "C." Put in quantifiable terms, the Broncos must replace 11 sacks and six forced fumbles. Beyond that, they must replace Dumervil's leadership and experience, since he had grown into a team captain who ranked third in defensive seniority behind Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams.

That's why it was appropriate that Wolfe and linebacker Wesley Woodyard met local media back-to-back Wednesday. Wolfe, who had six sacks last year playing end in the base package and tackle when the Broncos went into nickel formations, will be among those asked to increase his pass-rush production. Woodyard, a special-teams captain in recent years who is now the second-most-senior member of the defense, is likely to assume more of the leadership.

But if you're drawing a Venn diagram of Wolfe, Woodyard and the Dumervil void they'll assume, there's plenty of crossover. Woodyard had five sacks last year from his weakside linebacker spot and could get more blitz opportunities. The fiery Wolfe can become an emotional touchstone who rallies his fellow defensive lineman.

"Losing Elvis like that kind of opens up the door for people to step up and be a leader, so I'm trying to earn that respect and kind of be that guy," Wolfe said. "That's the way I'm looking at it."

Yet both Wolfe and Woodyard are looking beyond themselves to replace Dumervil.

"This year, guys like Robert Ayers, Malik Jackson, they're going to have to step up," Woodyard said. "I have all the confidence in the world (in them). I've had a chance to be around Rob for his career, and I've seen him grow as a player and as a person each and every year."

Wolfe sees Ayers as a leadership model. Ayers earned respect last year by handling his demotion from the first team last preseason without complaint -- and then maximizing his chances by playing arguably he best game of his career at Carolina in Week 10, posting five tackles and a sack, when Dumervil was injured and missed the last three quarters.

"I've already looked up to him for advice," Wolfe said. "Rob, he's a great guy, he's very mature in the way he handles things, so you know I think he's doing a great job. Already in workouts he's been pretty vocal, hasn't been slacking."

With the draft next week and free agency still open until the summer, Denver might not be done adding players to fill Dumervil's void. But they'll likely be supplements to Woodyard, Wolfe and Ayers, the core that's already on hand.