ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — John Elway’s offseason intentions have been clear: strengthen the trenches.
With three offseason moves — two free agent signings and a second-round draft pick — the defensive line has gained significant weight since being the weak link on a potentially great defense just a year ago. Now, highlighted by Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, Jared Crick, Zach Kerr and rookie DeMarcus Walker, the defense line is looking to establish themselves as a strength on the team.
However, in an effort to do so, there is one name that is going under the radar outside of the UCHealth Training Center that may end up being key for the line’s revitalization: second-year pro, and former second-round pick, Adam Gotsis.
“What I see from last year to this year, and just from hearing guys who have been in the locker room, Adam has been a lot better,” Peko said during the offseason workout program. “If you see him right now, he’s a whole different player than last year.”
As a rookie in 2016, Gotsis struggled to see the field, only playing in 19.25 percent of the team’s defensive snaps with zero starts despite seeing action in every game. To be fair, and what often goes overlooked, much of last offseason Gotsis was recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered during his final season at Georgia Tech in November 2015.
Although he was cleared to return to the field during training camp, his recovery slowed down his development and he was forced to wear a brace on his knee during the season. According to Peko, neither of these will be an issue for Gotsis this season.
“He had the ACL that it was lingering on, but now he’s really strong,” he said. “He’s healthy. He has that knee brace off. He’s moving around.”
With the addition of Walker in the second round of the 2017 draft, and along with six-year veteran Derek Wolfe, Denver now has three second-round defensive lineman on the roster. However, it’s the second-round pick from 2016 that may surprise the most people in 2017.
“We call him ‘Little Wolfe,’” Peko said. “He’s a strong guy, a tough dude, and he works out. We’ll see what he can do for us this year.”
Wolfe, known for his nasty mentality both on and off the field, has recorded 5.5 sacks in each of the past two seasons playing one of the two defensive end positions in Denver’s 3-4 scheme. If Gotsis can follow in Wolfe’s footsteps during his second season in the league, that would be a major boost to not only the defensive line, but to the defense as a whole.
While Wolfe is encouraged by Gotsis’ growth, he isn’t going to sugarcoat the work that still needs to be done before the start of the season in September.
“He’s putting some weight on and getting stronger. He just has to mature. He’s a young kid still. He just has to mature,” Wolfe said. “As time goes on, he’s starting to get it more and more.”
As Derek Wolfe enters his prime, another “Wolfe” may be growing in Denver’s defensive line room.