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Monday, September 2, 2013
Broncos-Ravens matchup of the day

By Jeff Legwold

Time to take a football vitamin, a once-a-day look through the season at a key matchup in the upcoming Broncos game.

Today's is:

Dumervil
Franklin
Ravens OLB Elvis Dumervil vs. Broncos RT Orlando Franklin.

Dumervil spent seven years as, for the most part, a weakside rusher in the Broncos defense whether he was down in a three-point stance in the years Denver played a 4-3 look in his tenure with the team or whether he stood up as an outside linebacker in the two years Josh McDaniels ran the team.

But that’s Terrell Suggs’ job in the Ravens defense and Suggs is a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2011). Suggs also has 84.5 career sacks, compared to Dumervil’s 63.5, but Suggs missed eight games last season as he returned from a torn Achilles to go with a biceps injury later in the season.

The Ravens have played Dumervil as the strongside outside linebacker in their defense thus far -- where Von Miller usually plays for the Broncos -- and he's split time with Courtney Upshaw there. It’s still uncertain exactly how the Ravens will use Dumervil during the regular season given he played just 36 defensive snaps in the entire preseason and the Ravens didn't show much in those 36 snaps, but he figures to be a specialist of sorts on long-yardage downs.

That would put him, if the Ravens stick with a traditional alignment in some of their pass-rush packages, against Franklin. Dumervil spent much of his practice time in Denver through the years going against Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady and has traditionally credited the athletic Clady with helping him reach Pro Bowl status with battles that were routinely entertaining and the highlight of 1-on-1 drills in training camp.

Franklin is a different kind of player, a power-first guy. Personnel executives around the league say he doesn’t have the flexibility in his hips that Clady does so getting the proper bend and leverage point against the 5-foot-11 Dumervil will be difficult at times for him. And leverage on bigger players is Dumervil’s game, it’s always been his trump card in the rush.

Dumervil routinely gets the corner on bigger, stronger tackles because he dips his shoulder under the tackle and Dumervil also has a big reach and upper-tier lower-body power, so he can knock far bigger players out of their pass sets. And once he gets the wobble from the opposing tackle, he's getting to the quarterback because when he sees his chance, he closes the deal. The Broncos have seen it plenty for themselves.

And the Broncos’ ability to play their preferred three-wide set, especially in longer down-and-distances, will hinge plenty on how Franklin, who dealt with a hip injury in training camp, handles his former teammate. The Broncos will have to consider leaving the tight end out of the pass pattern at times as well if they can’t keep Dumervil off Peyton Manning’s doorstep.

With Joel Dreessen still coming back from two arthroscopic procedures on his knee since minicamp, that could give Virgil Green some snaps at tight end in this one because of his power as a blocker and could force the Broncos to go a little beefier at times in a two-tight end look, with Jacob Tamme working as the slot receiver.