Broncos’ Derek Wolfe is making fans forget about Malik Jackson

Pundits predicted a decline for Denver’s defense after Malik Jackson jumped to Jacksonville in free agency.

Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) celebrates a sack of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in during third quarter action in Super Bowl 50 at Santa Clara, Calif. July 2, 2016 (Trevor Brown, Jr./ Denver Broncos)
Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) celebrates a sack of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in during third quarter action in Super Bowl 50 at Santa Clara, Calif. July 2, 2016 (Trevor Brown, Jr./ Denver Broncos)
Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) celebrates a sack of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in during third quarter action in Super Bowl 50 at Santa Clara, Calif. Feb. 7, 2016 (Trevor Brown, Jr./ Denver Broncos)

By Arnie Stapletown, AP Pro Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Pundits predicted a decline for Denver’s defense after Malik Jackson jumped to Jacksonville in free agency.

Jackson’s six-year, $90 million contract with the Jaguars dwarfed Derek Wolfe’s four year, $37.5 million deal that he’d signed three months earlier to stick around Denver and continue working under coordinator Wade Phillips and renowned D-line coach Bill Kollar.

Yet, Wolfe has emerged as more than just the guy who does all the dirty work as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme so his teammates can get all the sacks and accolades.

His four sacks so far include a career-best 2 1/2 last week at Tampa and are tied for second in the AFC behind teammate Von Miller’s league-leading 5 1/2.

His teammates, coaches and general manager are all calling Wolfe a big reason the Broncos are 4-0 heading into their showdown with the Atlanta Falcons (3-1) Sunday.

In his last 14 games, counting the playoffs, Wolfe has a dozen sacks, all the more impressive given that he has to constantly outrace Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett to the quarterback.

“To me, Derek is a real man,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “We can count on him every week.”

Miller credits some of his pass rushing prowess to having Wolfe as his wingman.