Englewood (AP) — Elvis Dumervil was supposed to be the self-professed ‘Batman’ to rookie Von Miller’s ‘Robin’ as a pass-rushing duo for the Denver Broncos.
But Dumervil’s superpowers as a top-tier NFL pass rusher have been largely zapped by a nagging shoulder injury that has forced him to miss two games and play part-time in another.
“I’d rather it happen now than later,” said Dumervil, who has one total tackle, plus a quarterback hit on Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers last Sunday, in abbreviated action this season.
“But I’m getting better every day. Day in and day out at practice I’m feeling more comfortable, so I’m looking forward to this weekend.”
The Broncos (1-3) could see their season spiral downward with a loss at home Sunday to the San Diego Chargers (3-1), who have won eight of the last 10 games in the AFC West series dating back to 2006.
Dumervil needs to be at full strength to complement Miller, the rookie outside linebacker out of Texas A&M who has four sacks.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has owned the Broncos recently, passing for 2,624 yards and 18 TDs with a 107.6 rating and just six interceptions. Rivers, however, already has six interceptions this season against just five scoring passes, despite his team’s hot start.
“He makes his team go,” Dumervil said.
In many ways, the same could be said of Dumervil’s impact on Denver’s defense.
In 2009, he led the league with 17 sacks and his teammates played off his emotion and production.
Dumervil’s struggles in the last three games have coincided with the absence of top cornerback Champ Bailey, who had a hamstring injury. Within that span, the Broncos have allowed 1,001 passing yards, the second-highest total of any three-game stretch in franchise history, trailing only Weeks 6-8 in 1964 (1,024).
Bailey is expected to start Sunday, and Dumervil says he has felt much better at practice this week.
“I need to get in more game shape,” Dumervil added. “I’m working towards it.”
“I’ve seen a real big improvement this week,” coach John Fox said after Friday’s practice.
Adding Miller to rush from the other edge was only supposed to make things more uncomfortable for opposing quarterbacks, and in the preseason, the No. 2 overall draft pick in April teamed with Dumervil to live up to their billing. In limited playing time, Dumervil had 1.5 sacks and Miller 3.0.
But Dumervil was injured during a practice leading up to the season-opener against Oakland, forcing him to the trainer’s room and to wear a shoulder harness. He was available in Week 1 but ended up playing on passing downs and was clearly limited.
Dumervil missed the next two games — including staying behind in Denver to receive treatment instead of traveling for the Tennessee game. He was back for the Green Bay loss last Sunday, where he notched his single tackle. He pushed the pocket on a bull rush to get his hit on Rodgers.
“I thought he looked a little rusty, but I did see some things in him that, obviously, I’m excited about having him back,” Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. “I think every day that he’s out here, every game he plays in, every practice that he practices in, he gets a little better.”
Part of Dumervil’s uphill battle is not only working past his injury, but also having sat out the entire 2010 with a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery. Allen predicted that over time Dumervil will be “the type of player that we want him to be.”
Entering this season, Dumervil had the fifth-most sacks per game (.70) and the third-most two-plus sack games (13) since he was drafted in 2006.
That earned him top billing, even with the arrival of the highly touted Miller.
“Players feed each other. When one guy’s going good, the next guy wants to do good,” Dumervil said of watching Miller’s contributions. “So we’ve got to make sure we do our job up front just to make sure we give Champ a nice welcome back.”
Notes: Starting safeties Brian Dawkins (ankle) and Rahim Moore (illness) returned to practice Friday. Dawkins had missed two days, Moore one. Both players should be available to resume their starting roles Sunday. Dawkins is listed as questionable, but Moore went through a full workout and is probable. WR Eddie Royal (groin), WR Demaryius Thomas (finger) and TE Julius Thomas (ankle) all have been designated as out. . CB Jonathan Wilhite missed his third straight day with an illness. Wilhite was able to watch practice while bundled up on a blustery day. But with Bailey back from a hamstring injury, there’s likely no need to push Wilhite into the lineup after sitting out the week. . DT Marcus Thomas (groin) has practiced fully this week after being a limited participant last week. He’s probable to play, but if he does, he’ll likely re-enter the interior rotation behind starter Kevin Vickerson and slowly have his workload increased in the coming weeks
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