- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2014

There are many nuances to an NFL playbook, and because Duke Ihenacho has been with the Washington Redskins for less than two weeks, he hasn’t grasped all of them just yet.

But on Friday afternoon, Ihenacho said he is continuing to learn. He feels his relative unfamiliarity with the playbook would not prevent him from helping the Redskins‘ defense in Sunday’s home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I think I know enough to contribute, you know what I mean?” Ihenacho said. “I don’t know if that’s going to get me on the field any faster, but I think I know enough to contribute.”

The Redskins signed Ihenacho off waivers on Aug. 31, less than a week after the NFL suspended starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather for the first two games of the regular season because of an illegal hit.

Some fans viewed Ihenacho, who started 17 games for the Broncos in 2013, as a potential fill-in during Meriweather’s absence. Others still believe he would be a better option at strong safety than second-year player Bacarri Rambo, who missed a tackle on a 76-yard touchdown pass in Washington’s 17-6 loss to Houston last week.

Ihenacho was limited in practice this week because of an ankle injury. But first-year coach Jay Gruden said Thursday the safety’s ankle has healed, and his knowledge of the defense will dictate how much he plays Sunday.


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“He’ll be okay health-wise, ready to go,” Gruden said. “It’s just a matter of how Coach [Jim] Haslett and Raheem [Morris] feel about him mentally moving forward. I think right now they feel confident that he can step in there and play a lot of reps and not have any issues.”

Ihenacho said Friday that he had not been told how much he will play against the Jaguars, or in what capacity. He played only a handful of snaps on special teams in the season opener.

The 25-year-old said his understanding of the playbook is coming along and he knows “about as much as I can right now, to this point.” He said he has struggled more with the terminology of the defense than the different coverage schemes and responsibilities within it.

“The toughest thing is just not getting certain words confused with what I know already,” he said. “Certain words trigger different things for me. So that’s all it is.”

Ihenacho will likely be on the field in at least a handful of defensive packages Sunday. But Haslett, the team’s defensive coordinator, put a damper on the idea that Ihenacho will play from start to finish. Learning an entirely new playbook in two weeks is no simple task, Haslett said.

“It’s not that easy to get somebody ready,” Haslett said. “That’s why you have 10 OTA practices, you have minicamps, you have training camp. You throw somebody in there, it wouldn’t be fair to him after five practices and everybody else has 45. But it’s coming.”

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