ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When training camp began, it would have taken a fanciful imagination to conceive of a starting defensive alignment in January like the one the Broncos now have.
Some of the changes have come via injuries. Others have been a result of players moving up and earning more playing time. But if the Broncos open in their base defensive package Sunday, they'll likely do so with just two players playing at the same spot that they handled during the heat of the early days of training camp.
And beyond the starting lineup, expected contributors like linebacker
Multi-week injuries to Carter, Bradley, linebacker
But these were just the beginning of the changes.
Some veterans have different roles now.
Responsibilities change for various reasons, but the goal remains the same, which has kept Denver's defenders on point.
"It's tough but I'm still leading my guys out there on the field," Woodyard said Monday. "My teammates still look to me for guidance and leadership and that's something that's going to never go away. I'm going to still be the same Wesley Woodyard when I walk through these doors."
Woodyard has not started since the Week 13 win at Kansas City. Lenon was bumped up to the middle linebacker role in the base defense seven days later against Tennessee, and the two have platooned based on package.
Lenon brings "that experience and that wisdom and that physicality," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said last week. But Woodyard still has the captain's "C" on his jersey. So does Bailey, whose role change was the result of a combination of factors, including his injury and the stellar performances of cornerbacks
"It was definitely not how I scripted out in the preseason but injuries do that and it is what it is," Bailey said "I'm moving forward. I'm happy about the role I'm in now. I think I'm effective there so whatever helps us get over that hump and win this first game."
While Bailey's new role reduces his playing time, it also gives him more responsibilities before the snap in setting the defense and the potential for bigger plays on the inside once the ball is snapped.
"I think I'm more in the mix. I'm definitely mixing it up in the run and the pass," Bailey said. "There are a lot of benefits to being in there. Being outside you're always searching for the call, you're trying to make sure you're getting lined up right. There are a lot of challenges to being outside, but being inside I kind of get a feel for everything before it happens."
Bailey, like Huff and Jammer, is in a role he's never handled before. For some 30-something veterans, a reduced workload could lead to frustration that bubbles up and causes locker-room tension. That is not the case with the Broncos.
"We're fortunate that we have guys here that understand that winning the game is most important," said Del Rio. "Understanding what they need to get done for us on Sunday is what's most important. Sometimes you have to put personal ambitions aside and think more in terms of the team and less in terms of your individual self."
Added Woodyard: "We just continue to play for one another and that's a big thing. Whoever is on the field, we just try to play for one another and live through one another and that's pretty much all it boils down to."