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Old 12-11-2009, 04:17 AM   #1
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Default Broncos' Elvis Dumervil tops pop chart, leading NFL in sacks

Broncos' Elvis Dumervil tops pop chart, leading NFL in sacks

By Chris Tomasson, Special for USA TODAY

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. To get in shape to play his new position, Elvis Dumervil had to sacrifice.
He had to give up oxtails.

After Dumervil had played his first three NFL seasons for the Denver Broncos at defensive end, new head coach Josh McDaniels installed a 3-4 defense, and Dumervil moved to outside linebacker. In order to shed about 10 pounds for the leaner physique he'd need to occasionally cover receivers, Dumervil made changes to his workout regimen and his diet.

Eliminating fried chicken and soda? Not so bad. But Dumervil, a native of Miami who is of Haitian descent, wasn't too pleased when a certain high-calorie favorite he grew up with had to be cut out.

"I was a little upset giving up oxtails," he says.

But a look at the stat sheet inevitably makes Dumervil feel a lot better. He leads the NFL with 15 sacks one shy of his preseason goal and has been a key to Denver's resurgent defense.

"I've been blessed," says the easy-going Dumervil while flashing a smile. "It's been great."

Same goes for his teammates. No longer are they the Enver Broncos as in no 'D.' Now they're a smashmouth team with an 8-4 record, currently the owners of the AFC's top wild-card slot but only one game back of the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West race.

The Broncos ranked 29th in total defense in 2008, surrendering 374.6 yards per game. Even worse, they gave up 28 points per game, third-worst in the league.

"Their front seven last year was garbage," says ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth, who played guard on the Broncos Super Bowl championship teams in 1997 and 1998. "You had a bunch of street free agents playing for you."

That bunch was burned for 112 points in Denver's season-ending three-game losing streak, a slide that cost the Broncos the AFC West and a playoff berth and coach Mike Shanahan his job.

Enter McDaniels, who brought in well-respected Mike Nolan, who had been fired as the San Francisco 49ers head coach, as his defense coordinator.

The new coaches have used the new scheme and new players to get fresh results. After Sunday's 44-13 win at Kansas City, the Broncos rank third in total defense (288.9 ypg). More importantly, they're allowing just 16.8 points per game, also third-best in the league.

Six defensive starters had never played a game for Denver prior to this season. It's true that the team's most dominant defender in 2009 so far is a holdover, but it's almost as if Dumervil is new considering his change of positions.

"A lot of outside linebackers in the 3-4 system are very gifted pass rushers, and I would say that Elvis is no different," McDaniels says of the 5-11, 248-pound Dumervil, whom McDaniels immediately believed had a frame better suited for linebacker than the D-line. "He's certainly a little bit of a different type of pass rusher because he's shorter, but he has long arms. And he's got great quickness."

Dumervil did perform well at defensive end, racking up 21 sacks in his first two seasons before slumping to five in 2008.

But now he's among the game's elite pass rushers.

Cornerback Champ Bailey, an eight-time Pro Bowler, knows a thing or two about performing at an elite NFL level as does seven-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, one of the team's major offseason acquisitions.

Dumervil and the players around them are playing up to that level in 2009.

"A lot us weren't here last year," Dawkins says of the defensive turnaround. "So, to say at the beginning of the year we're not going to have a good defense because of what they did last year is a slap in the face to a lot of guys coming in here. We took it as huge challenge to jell as quickly as possible to shut some people up."

It didn't take long.

The Broncos allowed just 26 points in their first four games. Dumervil registered eight sacks in that stretch, including four (tying a single-game club record) in a Week 2 win over the Cleveland Browns.

"(McDaniels) came in and brought high energy," Dumervil says. "And he simplifies the game. It's a totally different team. It's a totally different atmosphere."

And Dumervil is thriving at his new position, even if he wasn't as optimistic about his transition during the offseason.

"But I'm doing whatever I can to adjust to linebacker instead of being (just) a rusher," he says.

Even if that includes forgoing oxtails.
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Old 12-11-2009, 05:06 AM   #2
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Thats my adopt-a-bronco!!!
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Old 12-11-2009, 07:30 AM   #3
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He is a great player. He needs to be signed long term this offseason, which is an obvious statement.
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