ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported that Denver Broncos end/linebacker Elvis Dumervil(notes) will miss at least the next four months of the season after tearing a pectoral muscle during Wednesday's practice. NFL.com has confirmed the news, adding that Dumervil suffered the injury in a one-on-one pass-rush drill with tackle Tyler Polumbus(notes). Dumervil will be evaluated further Thursday, with an eye to getting a more concrete timeframe for his absence.
Dumervil signed a five-year, $58.332 million contract extension last month, and his absence places pressure squarely on former first-round picks Robert Ayers(notes) and Jarvis Moss(notes). Can the two players combined come anywhere near Dumervil's 2009 totals of 17 sacks, four quarterback hits, and 20 quarterback hurries? Not likely — last year, Ayers had no sacks, seven hits and four hurries, and Moss didn't see the field enough to put up any meaningful stats. Dumervil was a major reason that the Broncos were able to transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense last season.
This is a crushing blow for the Broncos — they've already lost left tackle Ryan Clady, their best offensive player, to a torn patellar tendon for an indefinite period of time. As bad as losing an All-Pro tackle can be for a team, Dumervil's value could be even higher because of the limited pass-rush options the Broncos have around him. Based on research I did over the summer to determine which edge-rushers are most relied upon for quarterback hurries alone, Dumervil has had among the least amount of help around him through the last three seasons. Last season, the Denver defender who came closest to Dumervil's league-leading 17 sacks was veteran Vonnie Holliday(notes) with five. Holliday now plays for the Washington Redskins. This may be what puts free-agent Adalius Thomas(notes), formerly of the Patriots and Ravens, in a Broncos uniform.
Because this puts the franchise in a very tough situation — even though the AFC West is a weak division, Josh McDaniels' mercurial moves have robbed the roster of many elite playmakers, which makes depth an issue even when injury luck is at its best. It may be too much to ask for a team to push on to a division run under any circumstances with its offensive and defensive pillars out of the picture.
In other words, Broncos fans: It could be a very long season.