Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil has been called compact, diminutive and short.
He doesn't mind the assorted descriptions of his far from prototypical frame. ``I just want to make plays,'' said Dumervil, who's listed at 5-foot-11 and 250 pounds.
Dumervil has played big all season for the Denver Broncos. He's coming off a three-sack performance against Kansas City Sunday, giving him 11 on the season. He was chosen the AFC defensive player of the week. At this rate, he's going to have update his goal. Dumervil has almost reached his self-imposed quota of 12-to-15 sacks this season.
``He keeps making my eyebrows lift up,'' defensive line coach Bill Johnson said. ``This is a little bit of an art, and he's got the feel for rushing the passer.''
The knock on Dumervil has always been his height. Even with Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney proving that dominant pass rushers can come in diminutive sizes, there remain skeptics.
Dumervil fell to the fourth round of the 2006 draft partly due to his height. He wasn't the industry-standard size for a lineman.
That's been the story of his life.
``All you hear about is how he's not the ideal height, or the ideal weight,'' safety John Lynch said. ``But all he's done since high school is produce.''
Dumervil had 78 sacks at Jackson High School in Miami, but wasn't highly recruited.
Louisville looked past his compact stature and Dumervil rewarded the school's faith, finishing his career with 32 sacks. He had 20 his senior year as he was won the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is given to the nation's best defender.
Come draft time, though, his height was a deterrent. He slipped to the back of the fourth round, where Denver gobbled him up to bolster its lackluster pass rush. He responded with 8 1-2 sacks in his rookie season, despite playing a limited role.
With season-ending injuries to Ebenezer Ekuban (torn Achilles tendon) and rookie first-round draft pick Jarvis Moss (fractured fibula), Dumervil has seen his role increase this season. He's gone from a pass-rush specialist to an every-down player.
``He's a hardworking guy who expects to make a play every time,'' defensive back Domonique Foxworth said. ``That's one of the things that's really impressive to us. I think people underestimate how talented he is, and the skills he has.''
Dumervil's play may make coaches and scouts take a closer look at another measurement wingspan. Dumervil has the arms of a pass rusher who's 6-foot-4.
``He's short and has long arms that's why he's so good,'' rookie defensive lineman Tim Crowder said with a laugh. ``Those offensive lineman are 6-7 and he's 5-11, so they can't bend that low.''
Plus, teams never know where he's going to line up. Dumervil may be on the left end for two plays before jumping over to the right for a few more. It's hard for the opposition to put a double-team on Dumervil.
``They try,'' said Dumervil, who's seventh in the NFL in sacks. ``I get chipped from the backs, the guards try to help. But there are going to be a couple of one-on-ones in the game and you have to take advantage of it.''
The Broncos recently severed ties with veterans like Sam Adams and Simeon Rice to give youngsters such as Dumervil, Crowder and rookie Marcus Thomas more of an opportunity. It's a move designed to pay off down the road.
``You've got to give young guys a chance,'' Foxworth said. ``They're hungry, they have a passion that you can't find anywhere else, that you only have when you're young and you need to prove yourself. They're playing like they have chips on their shoulders.''
With teams attempting to shift more attention toward Dumervil, Crowder has become the beneficiary.
``Elvis is still getting his shots,'' said Crowder, who's fourth among rookies with four sacks. ``The ball is rolling his way. Sacks come in bunches. They've definitely come in bunches for him.''
The Broncos could be on to something. Maybe good pass rushers come in smaller sizes and with an extended reach?
``Not just anyone could do what he does,'' Foxworth said.
Johnson agrees. He was surprised with Dumervil when he first arrived in Denver, but no longer. ``I've come to expect it from him,'' Johnson said.
And not just on passing downs.
``We hit on that early, 'You ain't just a pass rusher,''' Johnson said. ``Everybody thought he was just a specialist guy. But I'm just as impressed with his performance against the run as with the pass. I'll tell you this: he's going to be a real good one. He's only going to get better.''< ^Notes:@ The Broncos moved practice Tuesday into a nearby indoor facility due to the snowy conditions. ... WR Brandon Stokley (knee) and S Nick Ferguson (knee) sat out practice on Tuesday. ... WR Javon Walker participated in practice Tuesday. Walker has missed eight games due to a troublesome right knee.