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2011 Denver Broncos Preview: Defensive Ends

Could this year finally be the year the Broncos' defensive line puts it together? I didn't see what I wanted to see against the Dallas Cowboys, but this still might be the most talented group of defensive ends the Broncos have had in a long, long time.

The return of Elvis Dumervil obviously seriously upgrades the Broncos' defense, regardless of whether he was playing outside linebacker or defensive end like he is now. Dumervil is a superstar, and often a forgotten star pass rusher around the league.

Dumervil is joined by a couple of first round picks in Robert Ayers and Derrick Harvey, a second round pick in David Veikune, and a few other familiar faces like Jason Hunter and possibly even at times--Mario Haggan?

The Broncos also added one of the top pass rushers in the Big 12 over the last four years in Jeremy Beal in the seventh round, but he faces a real uphill climb to make this team as it currently stands. Jeremy Jarmon, acquired from the Redskins in the Jabar Gaffney trade (you can read about him in the defensive tackles preview) will also play some strong-side defensive end for the Broncos.

This is one of the deepest groups the Broncos have had in a while, but you can bet they aren't done looking for talented players. The competition over the last three pre-season games will be fierce, and hopefully the Broncos will wind up keeping eight, nine, or maybe even 10 solid defensive linemen when the season begins.

Elvis Dumervil

Denver Broncos

1984/01/19 27

5-11 248

Miami, FL


the Denver Broncos in 2006 (4th round)

I couldn't be more ecstatic to have Dumervil back this season. I think back to last year at all the games we could have and should have probably won, where hypothetical wins and losses and the absence of Dumervil on the defensive side of the ball haunt my Denver Broncos dreams. I think back to the game against the New York Jets, how having Dumervil pin his ears back on that fourth and long prayer that Mark Sanchez threw up would have had absolutely no chance...Well, you get the picture.

Dumervil is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, bar none. The last time he was on the field for meaningful games, Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks, and really had a breakout season. He's not great against the run, but when it comes time to rush the passer, he has been so valuable for the Broncos, so much so that they handed him a giant contract extension last offseason. Here is his scouting report from SB Nation:

Scouting Report

  • An instinctive playmaker with great pass-rushing skills. Sees the action well, takes good angles and pounds his way through the line. A good run stopper. Plays much bigger than his size.
  • Undersized for a pass rusher, leading to some matchup problems and durability issues. Not great in coverage. Allows some easy plays and isn't a punishing tackler.
Career Potential
  • Pro Bowl pass rusher.
  • AwardsNamed to play in Pro BowlNCAA - Ted Hendricks Award (Nation's top defensive end)NCAA - Bronko Nagurski Award (Nation's top defensive player)

Robert Ayers

Denver Broncos

1985/09/06 25

6-3 274

Clio, SC


the Denver Broncos in 2009 (1st round)

Right now, the Broncos are just waiting for Robert Ayers to put it all together. We know he plays with a fire, we all know he can hit people, and we all know he is a big, strong guy. What we don't know right now is if he can put that all together for a whole season, and translate his intensity to the field in terms of pass rush. I'm not talking about him getting "close" to the quarterback--Ayers was the 18th pick in the draft and we need him to start putting up double-digit sack totals or he is going to be looking for a job sooner rather than later.

This season needs to be a break-out year for Ayers. It's not "I hope Ayers can have a great season," or, "I think this year is the year for Robert." This HAS to be the year for Ayers, or I think he will be fighting for a roster spot, possibly even before season's end.

Ayers is a solid run defender, as he showed in spurts last year, but he has barely even gotten a legitimate NFL sack, and has already missed six games. He was starting to emerge in college at Tennessee as a 4-3 defensive end in Monte Kiffin's scheme, so hopefully Ayers' first year in the 4-3 alignment can be the first year he shows to Broncos fans why he was selected so high in the draft, rather than in the 2nd or 3rd round where I thought he would go.

Scouting Report

  • A bruising and energetic linebacker. Has some solid moves as a pass rusher. Has the speed, quickness and raw tools to make things happen on defense.
  • Still very unpolished. Needs to improve in every aspect of the position. Doesn't adjust well and makes wrong decisions more often than not. Attitude may also be an issue.
Career Potential
  • Decent starter.

Jason Hunter

Denver Broncos

1983/08/28 27

6-4 271

Fort Bragg, NC


Hunter came to the Broncos last season after he was cut by the Detroit Lions in the pre-season, and he wasted no time making his presence felt. He worked his way into the starting lineup at outside linebacker for the Broncos and finished the year with 60 tackles, three sacks, and an interception.

Hunter's statistics aren't huge by any means, but he is a rotational defensive end who can make an impact for your team off the bench both against the run and as a pass rusher. I am excited to have him back with the Broncos, and as you all saw in the first pre-season game, he still has some serious pass rush skill, netting two sacks already.

Scouting Report

  • A very athletic end possessing varied pass-rushing skills. Has great timing off the snap and has good inside moves to get to the quarterback or stuff the run.
  • A bit one-dimensional: doesn't have overpowering quickness off the edge to catch opposing linemen off-guard, and isn't a pure tackler.
Career Potential
  • Solid defensive lineman and special teamer.

Derrick Harvey

Denver Broncos

1986/11/09 24

6-5 268

Greenbelt, MD


the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2008 (1st round)

Derrick Harvey is really in the same boat as Robert Ayers right now, though he was drafted a year earlier and has already been cut by the team that used a high draft pick (traded up, in fact) to get him. The biggest thing Harvey has going for him right now is his age--he doesn't turn 25 until almost mid-season, and the Broncos are banking on the fact that his immaturity as a player and his being so "green" for Jacksonville will pay dividends for them, as he sort of comes into his own as a player.

Harvey only has eight sacks in his NFL career, and has only missed one game. He is known more for his ability against the run, but again, as a top ten pick in the draft, there are a lot of expectations. With his size and athletic ability he can play inside, he can play outside, he can play strong-side or weak-side. Hopefully Harvey can break out and be the type of pass rusher he was drafted to be for the Broncos.

Scouting Report

  • Possesses good raw size and athleticism and wisely uses it to his maximum advantage. Tenacious and crafty, reads plays and can pick up the run. Has good sack skills and instincts.
  • Doesn't have elite foot-speed or bulk. Needs to add a lot of muscle to become a dominator. Could also improve against passing plays.
Career Potential
  • Good and versatile starter.

David Veikune

Denver Broncos

1985/12/12 25

6-2 257

Anchorage, AK


the Cleveland Browns in 2009 (2nd round)

Veikune was a guy I really liked coming out of college two years ago, but he was vastly mis-cast in the Cleveland Browns' 3-4 defense. They tried him as an inside linebacker, and that failed miserably, and he was never really given a chance to make an impact as a pass rusher, which is what he was known for coming out of Hawaii.

You can see on his college tape that Veikune is relentless. He's got a fire about him, and he's a hard worker. He is a good athlete who can contribute on special teams, and I really hope the Broncos get a good look at him as a defensive end. I am really going to be watching him against the Buffalo Bills, and I will go back and see what he did against Dallas as well, but I think he has loads of potential. We'll see if he can tap into it.

Scouting Report

  • Has a nice burst off the edge and can get into the backfield and terrorize quarterbacks. Also a tackling demon with a high motor and good fundamentals.
  • Not a top-tier athlete or the type of huge end that can dominate the line. Tends to overrun plays at times and could stand to rein his game in a little.
Career Potential
  • Versatile rotational linebacker / end.

Jeremy Beal

Denver Broncos

1987/12/02 23

6-2 262


the Denver Broncos in 2011 (7th round)

I am not quite sure why the SB Nation site still has most of our defensive ends as linebackers, but that is not the issue at hand here. Beal was one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12 over the last four years, and he comes to the Broncos with a chip on his shoulder. He's not a good athlete. In fact, he didn't even initially make the team in Oklahoma because he failed their conditioning tests.

Still, this guy is a gamer, and he has the heart that you look for in a young prospect, and he can get to the quarterback. I have not seen or heard much about Beal coming out of training camp, but hopefully the Broncos can get a good enough look at him in the pre-season to be able to keep him on the practice squad for a year.

Mario Haggan

Denver Broncos

1980/03/03 31

6-3 267

Clarksdale, MS


the Buffalo Bills in 2003 (7th round)

Haggan has been moved to inside linebacker for the Broncos, which I think is a much better fit for him, but that doesn't mean he won't see time at defensive end. Haggan showed last year that he could be a good pass rusher, netting 99 tackles and five sacks on the season. He is one of the team's most valuable reserve players, and he hits like a ton of bricks.

He will be another valuable piece to this defense this year as a LB/DE and one of the team's more solid veteran reserve defenders. I really like Haggan and I think he deserves a spot on this team.

Scouting Report

  • Very tall, with long arms. Battles blockers and sheds well. Can make a lot of plays in a short area. A good pass rusher who has played in a three-point stance. Smart and coachable.
  • Very limited in coverage. Lacks top-end speed and change-of-direction. Not a ferocious hitter and misses plays on occasions.
Career Potential
  • Adequate backup with some starter tools.