By Rich Kurtzman
CBS Local Sports presents 32 Players in 32 Days, a daily feature focusing on one impact player from each NFL team.
DeMarcus Ware – DE – #94
Weight: 258 lbs.
Hometown: Auburn, Alabama
Experience: 10 years
The Denver Broncos enter their 2014 season as one of the most talented teams in all of football. Clearly, a recent trend of being furiously active in free agency has paid off for Denver, and head executive John Elway has to be given a great deal of credit.
In March of 2012, Elway landed the biggest free agent in the history of the NFL in Peyton Manning, instantaneously making the Broncos a contender for the Super Bowl. That move worked to not only cement the most important position on the field at quarterback, but it also was the first domino in a long line of free agent acquisitions that have Denver poised to make another championship run.
During the 2013 free agency period, Elway found Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Terrance Knighton and Shaun Phillips. Each contributed on the way to the No. 1 seed in the AFC and on the road to Super Bowl XLVIII.
But when the Broncos were blown out by the Seattle Seahawks, something had to be done. Denver’s offense was dynamic, yes, but their defense needed improvement in a hurry. Elway went out to get safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib and, most importantly, pass-rushing defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
While passing the football has risen to prominence as of late – putting a greater need on having a secondary loaded with talented playmakers – the game is still being won in the trenches. No matter how good your passing game, it can be disrupted by a determined pass-rush. Take that Super Bowl loss last February for example; Peyton Manning didn’t have the time needed to throw the ball, resulting in multiple turnovers including the pick-six turning point of the contest.
Rushing the quarterback, putting consistent pressure on passers, that’s the way to disrupt offenses in today’s NFL.
In 2012, Denver’s defense possessed a great pass-rushing duo in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, which helped create turnovers, both in the form of fumbles and interceptions. Last year, with Dumervil gone and Miller out most of the year due to suspension and injury, the Broncos pressuring abilities left a lot to be desired.
This season promises to be much more like 2012, though, when the Broncos were tied for most sacks in the NFL (52) with the St. Louis Rams.
That’s because there will be Miller, recovered from his ACL tear, on the left side, Ware on the right.
Ware has long been one of the best pass-rushing defensive ends in the NFL. The man was drafted out of Troy by the Dallas Cowboys and spent his first nine seasons in the league with the same team.
Over that time, he started 141-144 games, missing three last year due to injuries. Ware has averaged 64 tackles per season and racked up double-digit sacks in every season but two, his rookie year and last year, when he only had six.
To some, that might be a little worrisome. While he’s been great in the past, is Ware slowing down at 31? But don’t forget, he battled multiple injuries to his shoulder, quadriceps and back in 2013. In February, Ware had elbow surgery to clean up the joint that had been bothering him for two years, and he’s said to be feeling great now, just in time for Broncos training camp.
Of course, football is a physical game, and on Sunday Ware suffered a bruise to his lower right leg. While he participated in stretches on Monday, the defensive end was held out of practice as a precautionary measure.
As long as he and Miller can stay healthy this year, the Broncos will possess one of the fiercest and scariest pass-rushing duos in all of football. That will work to improve the defense and put Denver in position to compete for a championship once again.
Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.