NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Wesley Woodyard believes new Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton's scheme "is built for (linebackers) to make plays."
Woodyard joined the Titans during free agency last month after spending his first six seasons in Denver. He said during a media availability session Monday (when the Titans began their 2014 offseason workout program) that his discussion with Horton was one of the reasons he chose Tennessee.
"Physical defense, that's what he prides himself on, and when I got a chance to sit down with him, he demands his guys to be smart and take control on the field," Woodyard said. "So that was a key reason for me to sign here."
Horton plans to install a hybrid system with elements of the 4-3 and 3-4 defensive alignments, and Woodyard is uniquely experienced to handle the transition and help others because he's played inside and outside linebacker and in 4-3 and 3-4 alignments. He's started 40 of his 87 NFL games, totaling 396 tackles, eight sacks, five interceptions, six forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
"I think I'm going to fit in pretty well, just listening to some of the defense that we're going to put in, I think I'm going to enjoy it and make a lot of plays," Woodyard said.
New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday that he is looking forward to the program reaching the point of the calendar where coaches can work with players on the field to illustrate the changes. Tennessee is able to hold a volunteer mini-camp April 29-May 1 because Whisenhunt is in his first season with the Titans.
"They're going to play different roles in different schemes, so part of that is what their assignment is and where they'll play. They'll get a depth chart and know where they're going to be, whether it's as a sub or a base defense depth chart, and you can look at base defense diagrams and see how that goes," Whisenhunt said. "Really, the most important part of that — it's great to show clips and talk about that and what you've seen, but you get a better feel for it when you're doing it in a competitive situation against the offense after you've been coached on it. They'll get a basis of it in the next couple of weeks, but the voluntary mini-camp is where you get to learn it. That's where it will be more hands-on."
Although Woodyard didn't change uniform colors for six seasons, he experienced multiple alterations in Denver. The Broncos had five defensive coordinators between his signing as an undrafted college free agent out of Kentucky and him coming to Tennessee: Bob Slowik (4-3) under Mike Shanahan in 2008, Mike Nolan (3-4) under Josh McDaniels in 2009, Don Martindale (3-4) under McDaniels/Eric Studesville in 2010, Dennis Allen (4-3) under John Fox in 2011 and Jack Del Rio (4-3) under Fox from 2012-13.
"That's always the tough thing, you get used to one system," Woodyard said. "I guess the positive and negative for me is I've had different defensive coordinators, several different defensive schemes, and the thing about it is you've just got to try to learn as fast as you can and re-boot your mind. We had the linebackers in (a meeting Monday), going over some stuff, just trying to get a jump on everything."
Each of Woodyard's seasons in Denver included the "C" on his uniform after teammates voted him a captain, and he plans to bring his leadership abilities to Tennessee. "I'll be kind of the big brother and teacher to most of the guys on the team, just trying to give them guidance and let them know what the NFL is about and give them that great wisdom," Woodyard said. "We have a lot of talent, and it starts inside our locker room with our core group of leaders that we've got to establish and continue to push our younger guys to get better every week. We had a good start (Monday), a good workout, and I think that's where it's going to start right now, being a team and building this thing one step at a time."