Let's get something straight. Elvis Dumervil can make a quarterback's life a nightmare. Let's get another thing straight; in 2009, Dumervil proved that he is an elite pass rusher in specific passing probable down and distances.
I want to help to ease Broncos fans' collective minds in regard to any anxiety they have in regard to defensive scheme, a new head coach, and a probable switch of Defensive Coordinator.
Elvis recorded 17 sacks in 2009. That's an incredible number. Moreover, for a guy that's closer to 5"10 than 5'11", that's historically incredible.
Here's the thing; Elvis had most of his sacks in fairly obvious pass rushing situations. Meaning that the defensive alignment didn't matter as much as the down and distance. Elvis wasn't asked to play much pass defense or set the edge. He was asked to rush the passer. This is the responsibility of a Defensive End more than it is a Linebacker. Is it fair to say that Dumervil's statistical feat in 2009 was more a result of his maturation as an NFL passrusher than it was a result of a scheme change?
In my research, I looked at down & distance and formation.
To the numbers we go:
This is backed up by video research and ESPN.com's splits.
1st and 10 - 5 sacks
2nd and 11+ - 1 sack
3rd and 3-7 - 5 sacks
3rd and 8-10 - 3 sacks
3rd and 11+ - 2 sacks
3rd and 0-2 - 1 sack
I watched every sack but 1 in the Redskins game I couldn't find. Keep in mind that I am not the world's foremost expert on defense recognition, but I know what I'm looking at 99% of the time.
Opponent - # Sacks - Defensive Set
Browns Game - 4 sacks - 1 in 3-4, 1 in Dime, 2 in Nickel
Cowboys Game - 2 sacks - 1 in 3-4, 1 in Nickel
Redskins Game - 1.5 sacks - .5 in Nickel
Philly Game - 2 sacks - 1 in Nickel, 1 in 4-3 hybrid
Steelers Game - .5 sacks - .5 in 3-4
Giants Game - 2 sacks - 1 in 3-4, 1 in Nickel
vs. Chargers - 2 sacks - 1 in 3-4, 1 in Nickel
vs. Oakland - 2 sacks - 1 in 3-4, 1 in Nickel
vs. Chiefs - 1 sack - 1 in 3-4
3-4 - 6.5 sacks
Nickel - 7.5 sacks
Dime - 1 sack
4-3 - 1 sack
Unaccounted - 1 sack
What's the summary? Let's not let ourselves believe that the 3-4 defense was the only reason Elvis Dumervil led the NFL in sacks in 2009. In fact, less than half of Dumervil's sacks in 2009 came in the 3-4 alignment and 2 of those were simply exotic looks with 3-4 personnel on the field that probably confused the offense.
The bottom line is this: Elvis Dumervil is a great pass rusher. Regardless of set or alignment. And a guy like John Fox, who knows how to get after the QB, will surely feature Dumervil in his 2011 defense.
The other piece of big picture information that doesn't often make its way into the 3-4 vs 4-3 discussion is that in 2009, the year Doom led the NFL in sacks, Denver's defense was ranked 26th out of 32 teams in terms of rushing yards given up (128.7 ypg). In 2010, Denver dropped to 31st out of 32 teams in rushing yards given up (154.6 ypg).
Denver's defense isn't and hasn't been any good for some time, and scheme won't change that. Personnel and coaching will. And rest assured, Dumervil will rush the passer with success on passing downs. Because that's what he does. Regardless of alignment.