Ed Andrieski/Associated Press
Ed Andrieski/Associated Press
ENGLEWOOD – Derek Wolfe is a blur.
Whether it’s making up for a lost offseason or slipping past offensive linemen, the Denver Broncos’ top draft choice is giving opposing coordinators and quarterbacks more to worry about in 2012 than just Pro Bowl pass-rushers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller.
The Broncos drafted Wolfe in the second round (36th overall) out of the University of Cincinnati, but an NCAA rule kept him from joining them until his class had graduated. So, he showed up at training camp with some catching up to do.
He quickly made up for lost time, whether it was playing inside at tackle or outside on the edge. When left defensive end Jason Hunter went down with a torn right triceps earlier this month, Wolfe moved into the starting lineup.
“Oh, he’s the man,” said Miller, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year who tagged he and Dumervil as Batman and Robin during last preseason.
On second thought, make that the “Wolfe-man.”
“Hopefully we can get Broncos stadium howling a little bit,” Miller said with a laugh. “It’s truly a blessing to have him in there. He makes anything a lot easier. You’ve got Derek Wolfe, he’s 6-5. I’m 6-3. You’ve got Elvis, he’s 6-foot, so there’s a lot of stuff for guys to game plan around.”
When the Broncos signed Peyton Manning in March, Miller said he and Dumervil immediately thought of all that success the Indianapolis Colts’ tandem of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis had rushing the passer whenever Manning gave them an early lead and forced quarterbacks to go to the air.
When the Broncos selected Wolfe, Miller said he figured this terrifying tandem would just have to be a troublesome threesome.
Here’s the rub: With Manning on board and Denver’s defense displaying this kind of pass-rushing prowess, opponents will try to run the ball on the Broncos to keep it out of the four-time MVP’s hands and to keep Dumervil, Wolfe and Miller off of their quarterback.
That’s where Wolfe, who had two sacks in his preseason debut at Chicago against the Bears, said he has to make strides.
The Broncos allowed the Seattle Seahawks to run wild on them last week.
“I blame myself for some of that, because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time sometimes,” Wolfe said. “Just get better every day. That’s what we’ve got to do. Come back next week and get better.”
Given how far Wolfe has come so far, the Broncos are confident he can make adjustments. After all, he wasted no time in catching up once camp started.
“Well, he picks up things quickly,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “They did a lot with him in college, so he’s been exposed to a lot, and he played all around the front; he played from nose all the way out to defensive end out wide, so he’s done a lot of those different things. It was really a matter of him learning the terminology. He is an intelligent young man, and he’s done a nice job picking things up.
“He still makes his share of mistakes, and we still have a ways to go, believe me, he’s not a finished product. He’s got a lot of work to do. But I like the way he’s started.”
Del Rio described Wolfe as “slippery” at defensive tackle and “rugged on the edge.” He said Wolfe proved a quick study by deciphering the playbook and quickly putting those lessons to use on the field.
“I couldn’t do anything when I was out,” Wolfe said. “So everybody had a couple of weeks and the whole spring on me. So I had to really grind when I got here, stay with my nose in the playbook.”
Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers quizzed him on the playbook for a couple of hours each day until he had it down, and it paid immediate dividends.
“The one thing that can happen for young guys is sometimes they tend to want to be perfect, and then they’re thinking a lot, making a lot of mistakes, and they’re playing slow. He’s not doing that. He’s playing fast, playing hard,” Del Rio said.
And Wolfe is in just as big of a hurry to fix the flaws in his game, too.
“I haven’t arrived yet,” Wolfe said. “I’ve got to keep working.”