On Monday, head coach Gary Kubiak announced what was feared — outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware will have surgery on Tuesday and will miss four to five weeks after suffering an ulna fracture near his elbow in the Denver Broncos 34-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

While Ware will certainly be missed — two sacks on the season already — in an industry of “what have you done for me lately” and “next man up,” the Broncos look to Ware’s replacement, second-year pro Shane Ray.

The Broncos have been grooming Ray to take over Ware’s role ever since he was picked in the first-round of the 2015 NFL draft. Although the Broncos would have liked for the transition to take place after Ware retired, Ray is as prepared as he will ever be.

After a textbook rookie year, showing flashes of greatness while also struggling with the NFL learning curve, Ray was given much more responsibility this past offseason due to another Ware injury. Ware missed the entire offseason, including training camp, due to a lingering back injury, and Ray was the man called upon to fill his shoes.

“I grew up,” Ray said in explaining the differences from his rookie year to this year. “I know my team expects big things out of me. I practice hard everyday and try to be the best I can, so in situations like that my teammates know they can count on me.”

Throughout the entire offseason, and preseason, Ray was listed as the starting outside linebacker opposite of Von Miller. Even though Ray has already been a big part of the defense this year, now he will finally get the opportunity to start his first NFL game alongside the player he emulates.

“(Von) is an exceptional player and I try to emulate him,” Ray said. “I want to be able to do things like him. To see what he does, it definitely pushes me to do better, and I think it pushes everyone on our defense.”

In Ray’s rookie year, he played in 31 percent of the defensive snaps. In the first game this season against the Carolina Panthers Ray played in 53 percent of the Broncos snaps. Now as a starter, expect Ray’s role to increase another 20 percent, putting him on the field for about 75 percent of the Broncos snaps.

In Sunday’s victory over the Colts, Ray was a part of the biggest play of the day. After Miller strip-sacked Andrew Luck with 1:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ray picked up the fumble and ran it into the end zone to put the Broncos up 32-20, which all but ended the game.

“Von made a huge play and I couldn’t have done it without him,” Ray said. “I took advantage of the opportunity to be able to keep my eyes open in that kind of situation and get that ball. That’s what we try to do as a defense, we try to change the game and make plays, and I’m just glad that I could do it.”

With Ware being out four to five weeks, Ray will have plenty of opportunities to continue to make game-changing plays. If Ray continues in his development, Ware’s injury could actually work out for the best by giving Ray starting experience and saving Ware for a playoff push later in the season.