2013 was supposed to be a breakout season for Derek Wolfe of the Denver Broncos. Wolfe was coming off of a solid rookie season where he played a majority of the defensive snaps for the team at both defensive tackle and defensive end. 2013 was supposed to be the year where Wolfe took the next step towards being one of the leagues better defensive linemen.
Everything was on track for Wolfe to make that jump; he had a good offseason and was having a good training camp and then the Broncos headed to the northwest to play the Seattle Seahawks in the second preseason game. The Broncos season ended with a loss to the Seahawks last February, but Wolfe’s season effectively ended to those same Seahawks on an August night.
Wolfe suffered a neck injury and lay motionless on the field for what seemed like forever, he was transported to a local hospital and slowly regained movement in all of his extremities. He missed the rest of training camp but serious injury had been avoided and Wolfe made it back for the season opener versus the Baltimore Ravens.
As the season went on and the Broncos kept winning, very few people outside of Dove Valley noticed that Wolfe was struggling. He was struggling on the field and struggling to maintain weight despite eating constantly. Then everything changed when the Broncos were on the bus to the airport to fly to Kansas City.
Wolfe began sweating profusely and his teammates knew he was in trouble so as the team beat the Kansas City Chiefs the following day in a key divisional game, Wolfe was in another hospital wondering what in the world was going on. He would miss the rest of the season and the details as to what was really wrong are still sketchy at best, but now he’s healthy and ready to go.
After Monday’s workout, Wolfe told the Denver media that he “weighs 290 pounds and feels great.” Last season he was trying to play at 258 pounds with diminished strength and endurance. If Wolfe is right and all the way back, then it’s almost as if the Broncos have signed another big free agent.
Although he is able to play both defensive end and defensive tackle, Wolfe said on Monday that he is “more comfortable” inside. However because of the Broncos depth at defensive tackle, Wolfe projects as the starting defensive end opposite of DeMarcus Ware. He also projects to play on the same side as Von Miller in the Broncos base defense, and that could be a nightmare for opposing offensive lines. Teams are going to have to account for Ware and Miller, and that is going to leave a lot of one-on-one situations for players like Wolfe.
A healthy and motivated Wolfe figures to win most of those battles and could be in for a big season. Wolfe will move inside on passing downs and hopes to give the Broncos something they have not have in recent seasons, an inside pass rush. Again with so much focus on Ware and Miller on the outside, Wolfe and players like Terrance Knighton and Sylvester Williams are going to see a lot of one-on-one. While the dynamic duo on the outside figure to rack u big sack numbers, Wolfe could see double-digits himself.
Most players make a big jump in their performance from their rookie season to their second, but Wolfe never got that chance. Now he’s healthy and ready to show that he’s a big part of the defensive line for the Broncos.