Wesley Woodyard is gearing up for a larger role than ever with the Denver Broncos.
The 5th-year pro is coming off a year in which he piled up career highs in tackles (97), starts (7) and forced fumbles (2) while replacing middle linebacker Joe Mays on passing downs and making spot begins at weakside linebacker for D.J. Williams.
Williams, who led the team in tackles after missing the first 3 games with an elbow injury, is facing a 6-game drug suspension to start the 2012 season. He also has an August 15 trial on misdemeanor driving under the influence and traffic charges.
Williams’ troubles might give Woodyard the opportunity to have far more than a rotational role in Denver’s 4-3 scheme next season, particularly early on. Low vig totals
Woodyard, whose role has increased every year in Denver since the Broncos signed him as an undrafted independent agent out of Kentucky in 2008, parlayed his outstanding 2011 season into a two-year, $3.5 million agreement over the winter.
That won’t be starter’s cash in the current day’s NFL, but Woodyard indicated after the team’s latest voluntary practice that he has his sights set on joining Mays and reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Von Miller on top of the Broncos’ depth chart at linebacker.
“Everybody wants to be a starter,” Woodyard said. “This year it’s going to be an open competition once we start summer camp, so I feel just like my options are open everywhere that I’d have (gone) .”
Woodyard was the starter on the weak side during an open practice last Monday; when Williams was absent from the start of 4 days of voluntary on-field exercise routines.
Woodyard announced Williams’ off-field issues aren’t something that he contemplates.
“No, man, we don’t speak about that. That’s his issues. I’ve just got to be prepared whenever I’m called to be on the field,” Woodyard asserted. “It’s out of my hands. I have just got to be the next guy to step up and if I am getting a chance to compete for that beginning spot during summer camp, I am definitely intending to do it.”
Williams is suing the NFL, wanting to overturn his drug suspension without pay. The lawsuit says the league violated protocol in collecting urine samples.
Woodyard stated that he wasn’t bothered when the Broncos drafted another fast and undersized weakside linebacker out of Kentucky in Danny Trevathan in April.
“It’s a fantastic opening for both of us,” Woodyard said. “We’ll both compete and I know what kind of player he is coming from a college that I went to. I know he’s going to give it his all each time he steps on the field, so it’s an honour to have a bloke like him on our team.”
Woodyard expounded he’s been counseling Trevathan for years, so it’s not like he’s all of a sudden sharing the tricks of the trade with him during these offseason exercise programs.
“He’s kind of like my younger brother, but I’m making an attempt to give him the opportunity to learn the things he will do and he cannot do before going in there and try and let him know all,” Woodyard said. “So, he’s coming along well. I think he’s had like 2 interceptions through these OTAs, so he’s doing pretty well.”