- The Washington Times - Monday, May 30, 2016

ASHBURN — When David Bruton signed with the Washington Redskins in March, he envisioned an opportunity to compete to be the starting strong safety. Since Bruton was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the fourth round in 2009, he provided them with depth in the secondary and was mainly a special teams contributor.

Last season, Bruton earned more playing time and was on the field for nearly half of the Broncos’ defensive snaps before he broke a leg late in December. Now in Washington after signing a three-year, $9 million contract, Bruton will have a chance to be a main contributor to the Redskins‘ defense and is competing with Duke Ihenacho for the top role.

“I was definitely drawn to the opportunity to come in and be an impactful player right out of the get-go,” Bruton said last week after the team’s first session of organized team activities. “Not just on special teams, but on defense. The past couple seasons I was able to get more action and be able to make plays and contribute to the No. 1 defense out there, so my mentality was to come here, win the starting job [and] contribute to make this defense great as well.”

The Redskins struggled to find stability at strong safety in 2015. Ihenacho broke his left wrist in the season opener and was placed on injured reserved for the second consecutive season. Trenton Robinson started the next seven games, but was then benched in favor of Jeron Johnson. Robinson, who was later placed on injured reserve, was released in December and the Redskins did not re-sign Johnson.

Washington then relied on cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who made the transition to safety after returning from a foot injury, and rookie Kyshoen Jarrett, who is yet to practice with the team since sustaining a nerve injury in the team’s regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.

Veteran Dashon Goldson was dependable as the team’s starting free safety, but the Redskins released him in March to save $8 million in salary cap space. For now, coach Jay Gruden is comfortable with the Hall and the combination of Bruton and Ihenacho at safety, and also plans to use veteran cornerback Will Blackmon there.

“I feel like I fit in well,” Bruton said. “I’ve had similar defenses with Jack Del Rio and Wade Phillips out there, and it helps that we have a veteran group as well. We’ve got [cornerback Josh] Norman, who’s five years in, D-Hall is 13, Will is 11, me at 8. We have some veteran leadership back there and actually know what it takes to be great and have been great in this league, so we’re just trying to mesh that all together and become a great secondary.”

The secondary was also ravaged by injuries last year. Former cornerback Chris Culliver, who was cut May 2 to save $8 million, tore his right ACL and MCL on Thanksgiving. Hall injured his right toe in the third game of the season and was out until Week 10. The Redskins relied on cornerback Bashaud Breeland, Blackmon and Quinton Dunbar, who switched from wide receiver to cornerback, in the secondary.

After adding Norman and drafting former Virginia Tech standout Kendall Fuller, the Redskins believe they have the required depth in the defensive backfield. That said, Hall knows how quickly that depth can be depleted.

“It was good to go through the adversity we went through last year,” Hall said. “We were able to put a lot of different guys in different positions. I think this year, we have some concrete positions we want to put guys in, but we understand things can change. Right now, it’s nice to have everyone healthy and a full slate of guys we can pick and pull from and make plays. Hopefully, we can stay as healthy as possible.”

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