Search

2 Denver BRONCOS

Sept. 01, 2008
Sept. 01, 2008

Table of Contents
Sept. 1, 2008

SI Bonus Section: Golf Plus
SI Players: LIFE ON AND OFF THE FIELD
OBITUARY
NFL PREVIEW 2008
BEIJING: 2008 OLYMPICS
Inside
Departments

2 Denver BRONCOS

Yet another new coordinator tries to fix a defense that is vulnerable to the run—in a division full of elite backs

ELVIS DUMERVIL isone of the best young pass rushers in the NFL, a leader on the field and in thelocker room, the kind of ambassador whose face a franchise can plaster onbillboards all over town. But coach him at your own risk. Over the past fiveseasons—three at Louisville and then two in Denver—Dumervil has had fivedefensive coordinators. That means a different playbook to study, a differentscheme to learn, a different terminology to memorize each year. "I shouldhave kept a page from each one of those playbooks," Dumervil says. "I'dhave a pretty good collection by now."

This is an article from the Sept. 1, 2008 issue

The high turnoverrate has nothing to do with Dumervil, a 5'11" defensive end who, by allaccounts, is a coach's dream. Despite his height, or lack thereof, Dumervil ledthe Broncos with 12 1/2 sacks last season and was an alternate for the ProBowl. But it can make a guy paranoid when his boss keeps getting fired. As arookie Dumervil watched Larry Coyer get the ax. Last season, Jim Bates wasushered out of town. This year, Dumervil is intent on stopping the streak andkeeping Bob Slowik employed for a while.

Slowik hasstepped into one of the most precarious positions in the league. Coach MikeShanahan helps run the offense, so when the team falters, Shanahan can blameeither himself or his defensive coordinator. After last season, when Denverranked 30th in the league against the run, the choice was obvious."Everybody had a finger in the pie," Dumervil says. "Some weeks itwas the players, but some weeks it was the scheme. There was too much 'If thishappens, do that,' and 'If that happens, do this.' It's a lot simpler now.There's not as much thinking."

Bates was doomedfive games into last season, when the Broncos were giving up an average of187.6 rushing yards. They trashed the seven-man front that Bates was using andbrought strong safety John Lynch up to help against the run. It was hard totell who was making the decisions—Bates was listed as an assistant coach incharge of defense, while Slowik was a defensive coordinator in charge of thesecondary. But those titles were slightly misleading. "Jim ran thedefense," Slowik said. "I coached the defensive backs."

After Bates wasdismissed, the defensive backs lobbied hard for Coach Slow, citing his engagingpersonality and businesslike approach. They didn't mind that he had not run adefense since 2004, when the Packers hired and fired him in the same year."Many times, I thought I would never get this opportunity again,"Slowik says.

Hiring a newcoordinator is often a Band-Aid solution for a deeper problem in Denver:finding players to help Dumervil anchor the front seven. The Broncos were 7--9last season, only the second losing record in Shanahan's 13 years with theteam. They are talking playoffs this year, but they are in the same division asLaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and Darren McFadden, so they first have tostop a few sweeps. Slowik cannot rely anymore on Lynch, who asked for hisrelease and signed with New England, but Denver did acquire 308-pound defensivetackle Dewayne Robertson from the Jets. Asked his job description, Robertsonsays, "To cause havoc."

If Robertson andDumervil can hold the line, the Broncos should contend for a wild-card spot,and Slowik should be back next year. Otherwise, Dumervil is in danger of hisstreak reaching six. "When you've had as many defensive coordinators as Ihave, you see that they use a lot of the same terminology," Dumervil says."One of them says something and it reminds you of another. I like toconnect the different plays they use."

If it seems thatDumervil is training for a second career, he is. Despite all the upheaval hehas witnessed over the past five years, he wants to be a football coach.

PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP WITH 2007 STATISTICS COACH MIKE SHANAHAN (138--90 in NFL), 14thseason with Broncos

OFFENSE

BrandonMARSHALL
POS WR
REC 102
YARDS 1,325
TD 7

Erik PEARS
POS RT
HT 6'8"
WT 305
G 16

Selvin YOUNG
POS RB
ATT 140
YARDS 729
AVG 5.2

REC 35
YARDS 231
AVG 6.6
TD 1

MontraeHOLLAND
POS RG
HT 6'2"
WT 322
G 16

Jay CUTLER
POS QB
ATT 467
COMP 297
PCT 63.6

YARDS 3,497
TD 20
INT 14
RATING 88.1

Casey WIEGMANN
POS C
HT 6'2"
WT 285
G 16

Cecil SAPP
POS RB
ATT 18
YARDS 59
AVG 3.3

REC 14
YARDS 51
AVG 3.6
TD 3

Ben HAMILTON
POS LG
HT 6'4"
WT 290
G 16

Keary COLBERT --New ACQUISITION
POS WR
REC 32
YARDS 332
TD 0

Ryan CLADY (R) --New ACQUISITION
POS LT
HT 6'6"
WT 317
G 13

Matt PRATER*
POS K
FG 1--4
POINTS 4

Daniel GRAHAM
POS TE
REC 24
YARDS 246
TD 2

DEFENSE

D.J. WILLIAMS
POS WLB
TACKLES 141
SACKS 1
INT 1

Champ BAILEY
POS CB
TACKLES 79
INT 3

JohnENGELBERGER
POS LE
TACKLES 41
SACKS 1

Marlon McCREE --New ACQUISITION
POS FS
TACKLES 65
SACKS 0
INT 3

Marcus THOMAS
POS LT
TACKLES 20
SACKS 0

Niko KOUTOUVIDES-- New ACQUISITION
POS MLB
TACKLES 4
SACKS 0
INT 0

Dewayne ROBERTSON-- New ACQUISITION
POS RT
TACKLES 57
SACKS 4

Hamza ABDULLAH
POS SS
TACKLES 47
SACKS 0
INT 0

Elvis DUMERVIL
POS RE
TACKLES 39
SACKS 12 1/2

Dré BLY
POS CB
TACKLES 51
INT 5

Boss BAILEY --New ACQUISITION
POS SLB
TACKLES 47
SACKS 3 1/2
INT 0

Sam PAULESCU
POS P
PUNTS 5
AVG 44.2

NewACQUISITION
(R) Rookie (college statistics)
*2006 Stats

2007 RECORD 7--9NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 9/13/11 DEFENSE 30/7/19

SEPTEMBER
8 at Oakland (M)
14 SAN DIEGO
21 NEW ORLEANS
28 at Kansas City

OCTOBER
5 TAMPA BAY
12 JACKSONVILLE
20 at New England (M)
26 Bye

NOVEMBER
2 MIAMI
9 at Cleveland
16 at Atlanta
23 OAKLAND
30 at N.Y. Jets

DECEMBER
7 KANSAS CITY
14 at Carolina
21 BUFFALO
28 at San Diego

(M) Monday

SCHEDULE STRENGTH
NFL Rank: 29
Opponents' 2007 winning percentage: .445
Games against playoff teams: 5

UNIT GRADES

SI.com's NFL personnel expert Michael Lombardievaluates the Broncos' units.

QB B+
Cutler will win a Super Bowl some day; perfect sub in Patrick Ramsey.

RB C
Young is more third-down than every-down back; unit lacks size.

WR C+
Marshall is one of NFL's toughest to tackle; no real No. 2.

TE B+
Tony Scheffler catches, backup Graham blocks.

OL C-
Lacks power and explosion; either too old or too young.

DL C-
Dumervil, best of the bunch, should be a situational rusher.

LB C
Williams returns to weak side; LBs need to get speedier.

DB B
Don't blame corners: With no pass rush it's hard to cover.

ST D
Working in a new kicker and seeking to improve return units.

SPOTLIGHT

Selvin Young
RUNNING BACK

No one wanted Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary or MikeAnderson, either. So when Young went undrafted out of Texas in 2007, he signedwith Denver and looked to those former 1,000-yard rushers for motivation. NowYoung is setting his goals absurdly high: 2,000 yards rushing this season."It's a confidence thing," he says. "You've got to speak it beforeyou can do it."

NOW AT SI.COM
SI VAULT

EXCERPTED FROM SI
August 15, 1983

IN A show-stopping performance that blazed across theDenver sky, John Elway established himself—in exactly four minutes, 22seconds—as a phenom of extraordinary proportions. That's how long it took theNFL's most heralded rookie in eons to grab the Broncos by the throat and marchthem to the winning touchdown. If he keeps this up, he'll be a legend bySeptember.

-- Douglas S. Looney

SI.com/vault
Free access to all BRONCOS stories and photographs from the SI archives, plusvideo clips.

PHOTOBRETT DAVIS/US PRESSWIRERUSH WITH GREATNESS Dumervil had 12 1/2 sacks for an otherwise porous defense.PHOTOKYLE TERADA/US PRESSWIRE (YOUNG)PHOTOANDY HAYT (COVER)PHOTO