Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos strong safety Duke Ihenacho (33) sits in the closing seconds of defeat n Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Ihenacho is another one of John Elway’s UDFA diamonds. After going undrafted in 2012, he was signed by the Broncos to come in and compete in training camp. He did just that, but was unable to win a spot on the final 53. The Broncos decided to keep him on the practice squad, and he eventually saw some regular season action later on in the season, when the Broncos became short on safety help.
But in 2013’s training camp, he was the #1 sensation on the defensive side of the ball. It seemed as if his name was constantly making into the beat writers’ practice notebooks. That buzz also translated to preseason game action. Ihenacho ended up rising to the top of the depth chart, usurping the veteran, Mike Adams, for the starting strong safety job.
Initially, it looked like Ihenacho could be a long-term answer at SS for the Broncos. He was an animal in the box and he brought a level of intensity to the secondary that had been absent since Brian Dawkins hung up his cleats. Alas, it didn’t last.
Ihenacho struggled mightily in coverage, to the point where he was a liability in passing situations. However, because of a lack of depth at the safety position, the Broncos had no choice but to keep him in the starting lineup, especially once Rahim Moore was lost for the season.
The Broncos felt like they needed an upgrade at safety, so they went out and signed free agent, T.J. Ward. Ward and Moore will be the team’s starting safety duo. That’s not what ultimately could jeopardize Ihenacho’s spot on the final roster.
It’s the return of Quinton Carter, who missed the last 2 seasons with knee issues, and the intense John Boyett, who is catching the attention of the coaching staff, that could render Ihenacho jobless. Carter has already leapfrogged Ihenacho and is firmly entrenched as the #3 safety. Boyett is still behind Ihenacho on the depth chart, but don’t expect that to last for long. Boyett is a playmaker in coverage and in run support.
Because of his status as special teams captain, David Bruton’s job is likely safe. However, if Ihenacho hopes to make the Broncos’ final 53-man roster this year, he’ll have to fight off John Boyett, which will be easier said than done. Ihenacho is on the roster bubble.