Redskins

New Redskins Safety Duke Ihenacho’s Status for Season Opener Uncertain

by Brian McNally
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Strong safety Duke Ihenacho #27 of the Denver Broncos warms up prior to facing the Seattle Seahawks at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 7, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Strong safety Duke Ihenacho #27 of the Denver Broncos warms up prior to facing the Seattle Seahawks at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 7, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Brian McNally Brian McNally
I’ve spent my entire career in newspapers. There’s nothing I love...
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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The Redskins did not know who was going to be available after the last round of NFL cuts this weekend. They just knew depth at safety was a priority.

And so when the Denver Broncos released third-year safety Duke Ihenacho, who started 17 games for them last season, including the Super Bowl, Washington pounced.

“I was surprised [to be cut], actually. But you know what? You just never know,” Ihenacho said. “They always say be prepared and anything can happen….On to the next step and I’m here to work.”

That experience level led to the Redskins putting in a claim on Ihenacho, 25, who played college football at San Jose State. He also has special teams experience and said that Washington special teams coach Ben Kotwica told him “I’m in his plans.”

Whether Ihenacho will start this weekend’s season opener against the Houston Texans is in question. He is a strong safety and Redskins starter Brandon Meriweather was suspended two games by the NFL for an illegal preseason hit.The only other safeties on the roster are starting free safety Ryan Clark, second-year pro Bacarri Rambo and Trenton Robinson.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he envisioned Ihenacho participating in some capacity. But how much playing time he gets Sunday depends on how quickly he picks up Jim Haslett’s defensive system. Ihenacho said he’s unlikely to play a full workload as he would in a normal game because he doesn’t know the full playbook yet.

“Just put me in there and tell me what to do and I’m good, man. That’s how I feel,” Ihenacho said. “I don’t think that takes too much learning. You really gotta be a dummy to not understand it. Here’s your man or here’s your gap or blitz here and go.”

Gruden made no bones that Ihenacho was claimed because he was a solid safety who was available. He was not specifically targeted. Alex Santos, Washington’s director of pro personnel, and his staff endorsed the move.

“You’re always looking to upgrade your team and if somebody can help you then you have to make that move,” Gruden said. “And we thought Duke could help us.”

It was a whirlwind weekend for Ihenacho, who had to catch a flight to Washington for his first practice on Monday morning. He didn’t know a soul in the Redskins locker room save veteran cornerback Tracy Porter. They played together in Denver in 2012.

“I’m a confident kid. But I’m always aware of how the business is,” Ihenacho said. “I’m confident, but I’m never satisfied, never comfortable.”

Follow Redskins reporter Brian McNally on Twitter.

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