No, Denver was not just one player away from winning the Super Bowl last year. The team clearly needed to improve on both sides of the ball.
Signing DeMarcus Ware will help. The three-year, $30 million deal this summer was a smart gamble and if Denver’s preseason opener — yes, I know, we’re talking preseason — is any indication of the 32-year-old’s health, then the move should pay off.
“That’s what they brought me in here for, to make big plays and put pressure on the quarterback, and that’s what I love to do,” Ware told reporters after the Seahawks game.
The Broncos simply had to bolster its pass rush after losing two key starters— Robert Ayers and Shaun Phillips, who combined for 15.5 sacks last season.
Ware was the second-fastest player to reach the 100-sack mark, trailing only Reggie White, but after suffering hamstring and wrist injuries in 2012, he struggled to regain his form, which led to the Dallas Cowboys waiving him in March.
However, Ware’s numbers last season — while a significant decrease from earlier in his career — were still solid. Let’s not forget that Ware is just two years removed from an 11.5 sack season and three years from 19.5 sacks. Outside of last season, Ware has been an iron man, missing only three games in his entire career.
Ware posted the lowest sack total of his career, but advanced metrics show that even in the worst sack year of his career, he still ranked among the best defensive ends in the league. Last season, Ware was tied for seventh in pass rush productivity among 4-3 defensive ends, according to Pro Football Focus. The stat “measures pressure created on a per snap basis with weighting toward sacks.” Ware ranked ahead of Denver’s defensive ends, including Ayers (ninth), Wolfe (21st) and Phillips (23rd). In 2012, Ware came in second among 3-4 outside linebackers.
As for his age, the Broncos can be encouraged by the fact that since the merger, 14 defensive ends have recorded at least 11 sacks in a season after reaching their 32nd birthdays, led by White and Chris Doleman who each did it four times.
Although Ware still has to prove that he can thrive as a full-time 4-3 defensive end, playing on the same side of the field as Von Miller should make life easier. With both Miller and Ware playing next season, Denver should improve its overall pass rush after ranking 13th in total sacks (41) last season.