With Elvis Dumervil gone, the Denver Broncos need someone to step up.
Defensive end Derek Wolfe has what it takes to be that player.
Wolfe, who was picked 36th in the 2012 NFL draft, registered six sacks in 2012 and he's poised to do more in 2013. Wolfe will likely start the season as Denver's strong-side defensive end (where the tight end is lined up), a position where he gained some experience in 2012 and will get an entire offseason's worth of work.
And now, the 300-pound prodigy has everything in place for a spectacular 2013 campaign.
For starters, Wolfe is strong. The Broncos drafted him as a defensive tackle, but because of the struggles of Robert Ayers and an injury to Jason Hunter, Wolfe was plugged in at defensive end on a decent amount of Denver's defensive snaps.
Wolfe proved to be an impact player there, and with a full offseason's worth of reps as a starter, he should make an even bigger impact. Wolfe can plow offensive linemen and can definitely hurry the quarterback with his strength.
On the 225-pound bench press, Wolfe registered 33 reps, which was among the best at the 2012 NFL combine. However, Wolfe isn't just known for his strength.
He had a solid all-around showing at the combine, as he ranked seventh among 23 defensive linemen in the 40-yard dash (5.01 seconds) and posted a stellar 33.5" vertical leap.
While wide receivers don't want to run a 5.01 40-yard dash, for someone who checked in at about 295 pounds at the combine, it's extremely impressive. Wolfe possesses the rare combination of strength and athleticism, which alone is enough to make him a good player.
His work ethic is also a huge help. Wolfe has worked extremely hard this offseason and he's blossoming into a leader as well. With a whole offseason to improve and gain experience, Wolfe has already taken large strides on and off the field from 2012.
Because of that and his strength, Wolfe, who played a lot of defensive tackle in 2012, can thrive at multiple positions.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio told The Denver Post's Jeff Legwold that Wolfe played about 70 percent of his snaps at defensive tackle in 2012.
However, because Denver drafted Sylvester Williams and signed Terrance Knighton at defensive tackle, Wolfe likely won't play there much.
Because of Denver's new additions and the depth it already has at the position with Kevin Vickerson, Mitch Unrein and others, Wolfe will likely play defensive end often.
At DE, Wolfe will register more sacks. Del Rio thinks that Wolfe can create mismatches anywhere he plays on the line, and at defensive end, he can blow by offensive tackles and get to the quarterback.
Everything is in place for Wolfe and his incredible work ethic makes success even more likely. He's coming into his own and his stats will reflect his performance this season.
Wolfe is in a good position as a defensive end, and he's certainly in a better situation than he was in during the 2012 season. He's the complete package anywhere on the defensive line and will terrorize offensive lines in 2013.
He and linebacker Von Miller will carry the Broncos defense to success.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
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