The questions started in March. Once he agreed to a reduction in salary, they gained steam and started making fans and some in the media take for granted what DeMarcus Ware means to the Denver Broncos.
Not in the locker room, per se. That’s never been in doubt. Just look at Von Miller since Ware arrived in Denver.
The questions were about Ware’s on-field effectiveness. Could he stay healthy? Will he even play? If he does, will he contribute or make an impact? What kind of shape is he in? Since Ware missed all of training camp and the preseason, they were fair questions to ask.
Ware answered those questions in emphatic fashion against the Carolina Panthers last Thursday night. The veteran outside linebacker played as if he hadn’t missed time at all. Ware was on a play count, but showed what value he still brings to the Broncos defense.
In his limited time on the field, Ware finished with three total tackles, two quarterback hits and one-and-a-half sacks. Added with what Ware did in the playoffs, he and that defense couldn’t have wished for a better start.
“I felt good. I’m glad I had this offseason to sort of rehabilitate myself and get my back right,” he said after the game. “Now, I was on a pitch count this game. Each game I’ll play a little bit more, and I look forward to it. I said I was trying to swing a home run every single time, and I guess it worked out.”
Amazed by what @DeMarcusWare did for the #Broncos. Misses all of training camp/preseason, still gets 1.5 sacks. pic.twitter.com/4Tcelf5l1y— Ian St. Clair (@IanStClair) September 12, 2016
The most crucial aspect for Ware and the Denver defense is to ensure he remains healthy. As was the case with Peyton Manning, Ware wants to get on the field at all times, whether it’s practice or the games. Gary Kubiak, the defensive coaches and the training staff have to do what they did in training camp and preseason. Control his desire and urges.
Not to say Ware hasn’t and won’t do that on his own, but a strong first game may feed that for him. Just like Manning a season ago.
“I think he had played 18 (plays),” Kubiak said after the game. “We were hoping to get 25. DeMarcus in an amazingly conditioned guy. That’s the only reason he was able to get to this day. He can probably sure use this weekend as we move into Week Two.”
If Ware remains healthy, he’s already shown how valuable he is to this team. Remember: it was his first game with no game reps. That speaks to how insane Ware is on his preparation. Not only did he get the sacks and hits in limited action, he got them at crucial times for the Broncos defense. That remains consistent as well.
“Big plays like that, they jump the pass rush a lot,” Ware said. “And guys knowing that, ‘hey, you know what, that was one sack we got.’ Then you taste that blood and you say: ‘Hey, let’s go out there. We’re able to get pressure on him. We’re figuring things out.’ And that second half, we got pressure on him.”
.@demarcusware inks the Player of the Game ball. #NFLKickoff pic.twitter.com/NnbUQzMVzh— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) September 9, 2016
What’s incredible to think about is Ware will only get better as the season progresses. The more he gets on the field, the more his body will get acclimated. As long as his play count steadily increases and he remains healthy, he will be ready when the Broncos need him most. Of course that’s in December, January and February.
The other positive news to come out of Thursday’s game - and it ties to that time of the season as well - is Denver yet again won a close game where it trailed.
“I guess we figured it out from last year,” Ware said. “I just look at it as ‘a win is a win,’ if it’s close or not. We don’t want it to be close, but that was a great team that we played against, and it’s fun to win close games like that.”
The questions may have started in March. They were still being asked at 6:30 p.m. MT last Thursday.
Then Ware took the field and answered them all.
All that’s left is to make sure he remains healthy.