Woodyard enjoying a breakout season for Broncos
Wesley Woodyard has no intention of slipping back into a
substitute role when D.J. Williams returns from his nine-game,
NFL-mandated banishment next month.
The Broncos have no plans of letting him off the field, either.
He’s the first Denver defender to record 50 tackles with multiple
sacks (three) and interceptions (two) before the midway point of
The fifth-year linebacker was a one-man wrecking crew in the
Broncos’ 34-14 thrashing of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints
last weekend, getting 13 tackles, two pass breakups, a sack and
strip, and a game-turning interception.
”I noticed I was around the ball a lot,” Woodyard said.
The Saints managed just one first down, rushed for only 51 yards
and didn’t reach the red zone until just before the two-minute
warning Sunday night.
Woodyard was the biggest reason for that. Yet he’s not one to
bask in the afterglow of his monster prime-time performance.
”I’ve still got a lot to do to get better,” Woodyard said.
”It’s definitely one of the games I’ll look back on and say I made
a lot of plays. But I only focus on those few plays that I gave
Asked what he could have possibly done any better against New
Orleans, Woodyard was quick with his answer: ”Just better dropping
in coverage. I wish I could take that Darren Sproles touchdown
back. You know, I feel like I let the team down on that. So, I’ve
got to be a lot better with my eyes and play better to take away
Woodyard leads the Broncos with 58 tackles, 14 more than
runner-up Mike Adams, a big jump for a guy who spent his first four
seasons playing mostly on special teams.
Woodyard got his chance when Williams, the team’s leading
tackler in four of the last five seasons, was suspended for the
first six games for violating the league’s policy on
The NFL tacked on a three-game suspension over his
alcohol-related driving conviction in August, pushing Williams;’
return back to Nov. 18, when the Broncos play San Diego.
”It’s always good to have a guy that can roll in,” said
Woodyard. ”D.J., with his experience, that allows us to be able to
play a lot of different things and do a lot of different things
It’s almost certain that one of those roles won’t be his old
starting job at weak side linebacker, the position Woodyard won
with an outstanding training camp and now has a stranglehold hold
With Joe Mays being placed on injured reserve Tuesday after
breaking his left ankle blocking on a punt return against the
Saints, Williams might end up sharing snaps at middle linebacker
with 15-year veteran Keith Brooking when he returns to practice
The Broncos haven’t revealed their plans for Williams. What they
do know is that Woodyard is too valuable to take off the field
”He was primarily a special teams guy when we got here,”
second-year coach John Fox said. ”But he’s got good straight-line
speed. He does have good instincts.”
Woodyard wasn’t drafted out of Kentucky, the knock on him being
his size – 6 feet, 229 pounds – which many scouts felt was too
small to be an every-down player in the pros.
He’s risen up to that challenge this year.
”There have been guys who have played at the highest level of
this league who haven’t been big guys,” said defensive coordinator
Jack Del Rio, himself a former linebacker. ”He’s done a good job.
He’s played well. He’s practicing with intensity, which we like.
And he’s done a good job playing for us in a role that’s kind of
gotten bigger maybe than he thought it might be entering the year
and we thought it might be entering the year.”
Woodyard is like the gambler who won’t count his stack of chips
until the dealing’s done, downplaying all the big plays he’s been
”I focus on the little things that I did wrong,” Woodyard
said. ”I feel like I left some plays out there. I’ve got to
continue to get better.”
Notes: The Broncos promoted S Duke Ihenacho to take Mays’ roster
spot, and they signed CB Mario Butler to replace Ihenacho on their
practice squad. Ihenacho, a rookie from San Jose State, spent two
weeks on Denver’s active roster earlier this season.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: