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Replacing Dumervil's Production Part 3: Should the Denver Broncos look within?

With no Free Agency DE signings as of yet, are the Broncos going to simply rely on players they already have to help fill the void left by Dumervil's absence?

Robert Ayers sacks Cam Newton
Robert Ayers sacks Cam Newton
Grant Halverson

BREAKING NEWS: The Broncos have yet to sign anybody to help replace 3 time Pro-Bowler Elvis Dumervil.

In two to three years Robert Ayers will be the best Defensive Player from this years draft. -Mike Mayock, 2009

The dust has mostly settled at Dove Valley and around the NFL at this point, so why have the Broncos failed to find a player (or players) to replace Elvis Dramavil? Is it because this time of the year is when Pro-Days are being held? Perhaps. Is it because this time of the year is when coaches take time off to spend relaxing with their families? Maybe. Are the Broncos looking at the draft for that player? It's possible. Or is it simply because the Broncos front office thinks that a combination of Robert Ayers, Jeremy Beal, and possibly Malik Jackson could be the answer?

During the 2009 NFL Draft, Mike Mayock of NFL Network said and I quote, "In two to three years Robert Ayers will be the best Defensive Player from this years draft." Well, it's been 4 years now without Ayers proving Mayock right. However, there MUST be a reason why he would say such things, right? Here is what we know about Robert Ayers: He's got great size and great speed. He can also rush the passer with the best of 'em when he's asked to. We also know that Ayers was used as an OLB for McDaniels during the first 2 years of his NFL career before John Fox switched him to his natural position at DE. Ayers' production as a DE playing opposite of Elvis Dumervil shot up dramatically as soon as he was put back on the line. That was also Von Miller's rookie year, so he wasn't exactly the premiere pass rusher on that side. He did however start less games and see less playing time than Elvis Dumervil in 2011, yet rack up similar amounts of tackles. Naturally Dumervil was the pass rusher, so Ayers' job was to guard against the run more often, but when asked to pin his ears back, become completely 1 dimensional and get after the QB, I believe that he did the job every bit as good as Dumervil did.

Could it be true that all Ayers needed was a little bit of time? This will be his 3rd year at his natural position, and without any additional signings to replace Dumervil, could Robert Ayers really be the answer? Or would a player such as Jeremy Beal be the dark horse in the race? Not a lot is known about Beal because he was placed on the Practice Squad his rookie year, and then put on Injured Reserve before last season started. What we do know about him is that he had a great college career (even though that only awarded him a 7th round selection in the 2011 NFL draft). However, Beal did play for a great college in Oklahoma, and he ended his career as their 2nd all time leader in sacks (29) and tackles for loss (56.5). However, if anyone knows that college success doesn't necessarily translate into NFL success, it's the Denver Broncos (although we can debate the merits of the term "success" all you want because we are all thinking about you-know-who that I'm talking about).

The last person to consider would be Malik Jackson. Although listed as a defensive tackle for the Broncos, he did play the defensive end position last year (rookie season). Jackson played sparingly in 14 games and notched 5 tackles. While his statistics don't look impressive at all, Jackson did make some good plays and looks to greatly improve upon his rookie season. My guess would be that Robert Ayers and Malik Jackson might be the answer if the Broncos decide to stick with what they have at that position. We can be fairly certain that a defensive end will be chosen in the draft, but how high and for what purpose (i.e. a high pick to be the future, or a mid/low pick to be a rotational player). If there is one thing we do know, it's this: The Broncos have yet to sign a replacement for Elvis Dumervil.

Although the smart money is still on the Broncos signing a player like Dwight Freeney or John Abraham, it isn't too far fetched to see them sticking with what they already have and adding depth via the draft. Robert Ayers has loads of talent, and when he's asked to simply rush the QB as Elvis Dumervil was asked to do, I honestly believe that Ayers has Dumervil's level of ability. He very well could be a direct 1 for 1 replacement. Remember, Dumervil wasn't asked to do much in the run game. His priority was to pin his ears back and get after the QB. If Ayers is asked to be as one dimensional as Dumervil, then that means that he doesn't need to worry about run support and he can then rely on his size and speed to wreck havoc on opposing QBs. That would still leave a hole in the defensive line though. That hole would still need to be filled by a combo of Jackson and Beal. Again, the smart money is on the Broncos bringing someone in or simply drafting a DE fairly high, but rest assured, we should not be like Chicken Little and think that the sky is falling because we lost Dumervil. We have enough talent in Robert Ayers to directly replace him. It's replacing the role that Ayers and Jackson filled last year that is the real position of need that must be addressed.