Watching linebacker Wesley Woodyard’s performance on Monday night was a thing of beauty for fans of the game that enjoy breaking down the X’s and O’s, or fans that just like watching an individual player wreak havoc on 11 other men.
The former Kentucky Wildcat great and team captain was all over the field against the Raiders, dodging blockers to record a modest 8 tackles and ripping through offensive lineman to pressure quarterback Terrelle Pryor from both the inside and outside.
Woodyard finished with a pair of QB hits and a half a sack, but his contribution felt greater, and that’s because it always does. No matter what the box score reads after the game, Woodyard, who’s fittingly nicknamed “The Lumberjack,” is the type of player who goes sideline to sideline, making the plays that casually get over looked by those not paying close enough attention.
ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, a former Denver Post reporter, took the words right out of my mouth in his Tuesday morning recap of the Broncos 37-21 victory over the Oakland — Woodyard is this team’s Swiss Army knife.
Since arriving as an un-drafted rookie six seasons ago, Woodyard has done everything the coaching staff has asked of him. He shined in his first career start as a rookie weak-side linebacker, making 10 solo tackles in place of DJ Williams. He was then relegated to special team duties, where he dominated the competition so notably that he earned a captain badge for his good work in his third year.
Since then, he’s become an integral part of the Denver defense, and arguably the face of it. He embodies the competitive spirit with his natural ability to make plays all over the field in any situation, whether it is as a nickel backer in pass coverage or as a middle linebacker in the team’s base run defense or as an addition pass rusher with an ability to apply pressure inside and outside.
Ironically, prior to his arrival in the Mile High City, the Lumberjack stood out at Kentucky for displaying the same versatility and willingness to succeed anywhere on the field.
As a freshman, he started as a strong safety before being converted into an inside linebacker, a position that he started every game at during his Wildcat career, recording three-straight 100-plus tackle seasons and lifting the program to a Music City Bowl win in 2006. Yet, come draft time in 2008, Woodyard’s name went uncalled.
Now, as a six year pro, the Broncos’ Swiss Army Knife keeps displaying his wide-range of abilities on a moral national stage and gaining more and more recognition.
Is this the season Woodyard finally breaks through and finally earns a much-deserved spot as a Pro Bowler?
Anything is possible for the jack-of-all-trades player who continues to leave it all on the field every single Sunday.