Four words every linebacker loves to hear: "Go make a play."
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio is no stranger to that command, and his linebackers are eager to obey.
"He loves his players to be playmakers,"
Woodyard and other linebackers have embraced the new freedom that Del Rio, a former linebacker himself, has given to the unit.
But in order to be successful in 2012, discipline and acumen must go hand-in-hand with freedom. Example one: last year's defensive rookie of the year, strongside linebacker
Miller and Linebackers Coach Richard Smith are working together to help the second-year pro eliminate mental mistakes and became a more multi-dimensional player.
"We're looking for bigger and better things out of him this year," Smith said of the 2012 Pro Bowler. "The system has changed a little bit in terms of ... he'll also be asked to drop into coverage. Right now he's taking pride in that. Through OTAs and minicamp he has done a really nice job."
Miller wants to reach a point where his youth never shows on the field.
"I'm not a rookie anymore," Miller said. "I want to start to play like a vet. I just want to be in the spots that my teammates expect me to be in for crunch-time situations."
"The way the guy can just spin, dip and rip -- just do all types of things -- I can't even explain it," Mays said. "It's amazing, the type of things that he does naturally. And he's only going to get better. So I look forward to seeing him do some special things for us this year."
While Miller holds down the strong side, veterans
Mays, who re-signed with the team during the offseason, will occupy another crucial role in the linebackers unit - manning the middle.
"We're really happy to have Joe back," Smith said. "In terms of directing the front, he sets the front, the mechanics. Joe had a good year last year and we're hoping that he can continue to get better and have a better year this year."
With Miller and another Pro Bowler in
"I just say bring it on," Mays said. "We're definitely going to be ready."
MEET THE LINEBACKERS
Joe Mays: The fifth-year middle linebacker started 12 games for the Broncos in 2012 and finished with 75 tackles, the third-highest total on the team. His 15 postseason tackles tied him for the team lead. He joined the Broncos in 2010 via trade from the Philadelphia Eagles.
Von Miller: A second-year linebacker, Miller was named Associated Press' Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl starter in 2011 after tying the franchise rookie sack record (11.5). He produced two separate five-game stretches posting at least a half sack in 2011 and became just the second player in Broncos history (K David Treadwell, 1989) to be selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
D.J. Williams: A ninth-year veteran, Williams led the Broncos in tackles the last three seasons and five times overall in his eight years in the league. He is the team's active leader in tackles and owns five 100-tackle seasons, including a personal-best 170 stops in 2007.
Wesley Woodyard: Woodyard has served as team captain for the Broncos the last three years. He started a career-high seven games for the Broncos last season and has led the team in special teams stops in three of his four years in the league. An undrafted rookie in 2008, Woodyard is also a former Kentucky Wildcat, where he started 42 career games and had three 100-tackle campaigns.