At 5-11 and 248 pounds, Broncos linebacker Elvis Dumervil doesn't look a lot like the kind of player who creates nightmares for opposing quarterbacks. Once you see him run, though, it's an easy reminder that you shouldn't judge books by their cover. Dumervil had 26 sacks in his first three NFL seasons, and a switch to a 3-4 look this season hasn't slowed him down one bit.
He has six sacks in the last two games, and is a big reason why the Broncos are off to an unexpected 3-0 start. It's easy to see how much havoc he could wreak in a winnable game for the Cowboys if he isn't held in check. It's not just the damage of a sack or, even worse, a sack and strip leading to a fumble.
The Broncos are very strong in the secondary. When the Cowboys put the ball in the air Romo will have to be precise or they could be chasing Champ Bailey as he takes a pick back for six backbreaking points. Dumervil romping around the backfield like a bloodthirsty hobbit will have a decidedly negative impact on Romo's precision and the Cowboys' chances of winning the game.
The first line of defense is Flozell Adams, which means that we'll probably be reading about a fourth fine in four weeks for the Hotel next week. Dumervil is simply too fast for the glacial Adams to handle on a speed rush, which means the Cowboys will have to keep an extra blocker in or deal with the inevitable holding, tripping and/or gorging penalties that will ensue. Or both, frankly, since Adams rarely even tries to block pass rushers legally these days.
A more effective strategy is the one that we've been beating over the head this entire week. Just run the damn ball. What Adams and the rest of the Cowboys line lack in agility they more than make up in sheer power. The Broncos have put up some spectacular defensive numbers thus far -- their 16 points allowed is the third-fewest through three games in NFL histoy -- but they haven't faced an offense that can control the game on the ground like the Cowboys. Whether or not Marion Barber winds up playing, the 'Boys have to play to their strength.
If they run the ball well, Dumervil will be forced to slip into a lower gear. When they do pass, his pass rush will come a bit slower and that should make it easier for Adams and, in turn, Romo. If that happens, Elvis will likely be leaving the building with a loss.