Denver Broncos: Wesley Woodyard, the Unsung Hero on Defense

Travis WakemanCorrespondent IIDecember 27, 2012

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 23:  Outside linebacker Wesley Woodyard #52 of the Denver Broncos keeps his eyes trained on quarterback Brandon Weeden #3 of the Cleveland Browns during a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 23, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Browns 34-12. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

With the Denver Broncos riding an NFL-best 10-game winning streak, it has been Peyton Manning and his fluid offense that has grabbed most of the headlines. However, through 15 games, the team is ranked third in the league in total defense.

During the offseason, it was revealed that linebacker D.J. Williams would be suspended for failing a league-mandated drug test. At first, it seemed as though this would be a big blow to the team, leaving a hole in the middle of their defense that Williams, a solid veteran, has occupied for years.

Instead, Wesley Woodyard turned it into an opportunity to prove what he could do.

From the moment training camp opened, Woodyard looked ready for the starting role, and as the preseason wore on, the pressure of having a replacement for Williams subsided. It was clear Woodyard could do the job.

In the season opener against Pittsburgh, Woodyard made 12 tackles and sacked Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Woodyard would be a great fit, though fans of the Broncos who have followed his career likely knew that.

Williams has returned from his suspension, but it has been Woodyard who has gotten the snaps. The coaching staff has decided to reward him for the season he is having.

Williams still gets his chances, and he has made the most of those as well, but it would be very tough to justify taking Woodyard off the field for any long period of time.

On the year, Woodyard has 113 tackles, 36 more than anyone on the team, to go along with 5.5 sacks. He has intercepted passes thrown by Matt Schaub, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, and he has a motor that just doesn't seem to stop.

If there is a big hit or a scramble for a fumble, you can bet Woodyard is in the middle of it. The guy is seemingly everywhere.

Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey are the more-recognizable names, and they are the players on defense who have been selected to the Pro Bowl to represent the AFC. But when the Broncos need a big play on defense in the upcoming playoffs, don't be surprised if you see Woodyard as the guy who makes it.