In a resent post, BleacherReport’s Cecil Lammey, says that veteran safety, Duke Ihenacho, is already at risk of being cut. Lammey said this:
“So far in practice, Ihenacho has continued to struggle as a coverage player. On the first day of practice he was torched by rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer for a 50-yard touchdown. It’s not a good sign when a rookie is handing Ihenacho his lunch on the very first day.
The Broncos offense is going to put up a bunch of points this year. Thus, the defense will be facing opponents who abandon balance early each week. This means the secondary will be tested in coverage early and often.
Ihenacho is firmly on the roster bubble, and the numbers crunch may cause the team to go in a different direction.”
Ihenacho’s star rose quickly in 2013’s training camp. The former UDFA out of San Jose State was making it into every Broncos beat writer’s notebook, it seemed. When he defied the odds by beating out veteran, Mike Adams, for the starting strong safety spot, we were all pleasantly surprised.
He brought a nasty, smashmouth intensity to the Broncos’ defense early on in ’13. However, as Lammey mentions in the piece, Ihenacho seemed to be on the losing end, any time a ball was thrown his way. If there was a key first down, or TD, it seemed to come at his expense.
As much as Ihenacho thrives in the box, close to the line of scrimmage, he’s a liability in coverage. This type of dichotomy, on a “Super Bowl or Bust” roster, simply will not do. Per ProFootballFocus, Ihenacho earned a -6.9 overall grade and a pitiful -6.3 in pass coverage last year, as he started 18 of the Broncos 19 games, including playoffs.
See, T.J. Ward also thrives, to a much higher degree, in the box, but he’s also excellent in coverage. This versatility is what earned him a 4-year, $22.5M deal from the Denver Broncos and a trip to the Pro Bowl, along with 2nd team All-Pro honors.
To compare, Ward earned a +15.0 overall grade from PFF and a +4.8 in pass coverage. Ward’s overall grade ranked 4th best among all safeties in the NFL last year.
With Quinton Carter healthy again and pressure from guys like John Boyett, I must concur with Lammey. Duke Ihenacho is on the roster bubble and unless he can get better in coverage in a hurry, he could find himself unemployed sooner, rather than later.