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Broncos Position Battle Preview: The #4 Safety

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With the 3rd pre-season game coming up this weekend, we'll continue with reviewing some of the key position battles going on during training camp, practice and during the pre-season games. Today, as the title says, we'll be covering the #4 safety position.

2nd year safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter along with free agent acquisition Mike Adams are all locks to make the roster, though the order is still very much still in contention. The real battle for a roster spot comes from that #4 safety spot. This position is usually filled by a key special teams player or a safety who can play either safety position well. So let's take a look at each player to see how each one has fared so far.

We'll be looking at Rafael Bush, David Bruton, Jim Lreonhard, and Duke Ihenacho.

Rafael Bush:

Rafael Bush

#36 / Defensive Back / Denver Broncos



May 12, 1987

South Carolina St

Aggressive mentality
- Good closing speed
- Good tackling form

A bit undersized
- Not physical or fast enough in man coverage
- Can get lost in zone coverage

Outlook So Far:

Bush has had a solid camp, looking much improved over last season when he spent time over Rahim Moore. Bush has improved his overall cover skill and made a few big plays in camp. The problem for Bush comes in the games where he has been a bit slow to the receiver, though on the bright side he has shut the receiver down once they catch the ball.

David Bruton:

David Bruton

#30 / Safety / Denver Broncos



Jul 23, 1987

Notre Dame

Top tier special teamer
- Can play both strong and free safety
- Excellent tackling form, doesn't miss tackles

Struggles in man coverage
- Hasn't developed as fast as expected
- Lacks top end speed

Outlook So Far:

Bruton has had a very good camp and pre-season, finishing with a great block against the Seahawks. Had it not been for the arrival of Leohnard, this wouldn't actually be a competition. Bruton has spent time with all three units in camp and in the pre-season games and has looked good across the board from run support to zone coverage, not getting lost.

Jim Leonhard:

Jim Leonhard

#45 / Safety / Denver Broncos



Oct 27, 1982


Year Tm G Sk Int PD FF Fmb FR Tkl Ast
2006 BUF 15 0 0
0 2 1 11 2
2007 BUF 13 0 2 3 0 1 0 44 10
2008 BAL 16 1.0 1 6 0 1 1 54 14
2009 NYJ 16 2.5 1 6 1 1 0 54 22
2010 NYJ 11 0 1 4 1 0 1 52 4
2011 NYJ 13 0 1 6 1 0 1 38 10
Career 94 3.5 6 25 3 5 4 254 66

- Can contribute on special teams as a returner
- Very good in zone coverage
- Well known leader

- Small size hurts him against bigger wide receivers or against the run
- While he's agile, lacks top end speed to catch up
- Has big issues with missed tackles

Outlook So Far:

Leonhard is an interesting player since he's a solid returner, though hardly spectacular, but he's also a nice Cover 2 safety since his skill set fits zone coverage so well. While he struggles with open field tackles, he is a solid depth safety in rotation, netting at least one interception per season his career, though he isn't the impact,, turnover safety many are looking for.

Duke Ihenacho:

Duke Ihenacho

#39 / Safety / Denver Broncos



Jun 16, 1989

San Jose State

No NFL Statistics

- Aggressive and physical
- Able to play both strong and free safety
- Good vision in zone coverage

Struggles in man coverage
- Poor tackling form
- Hasn't developed the ability to notice trick plays (play action, draws, etc)

Outlook So Far:

Duke has impressed a few fans with his big play making ability in camp, plus he has an awesome name, but those big plays have come few and far between. Duke is a player who can make the big play then blow his coverage or tackle on the next few drives. His mentality and skill set are perfect, but he's struggled to get his mind in the right spot to be able to put it all together.

Staffer Thoughts:


Bruton is a solid special teamer, so that could help him make the roster, especially since Woodyard may not be on special teams as much as before. I think Rafeal Bush makes it as the 4th safety. Bush is a better pure safety and is versatile. It will be an interesting battle, that will probably come down to the final cuts. If i had to pick right now, i say Bruton gets cut and the Broncos go forward with Moore, Carter, Adams and Bush.


I do not believe that either undrafted, rookie player will make the active roster. This leaves the battle for the final spot between fourth-year player David Bruton and third-year player Rafael Bush. Bruton has the statistical edge over Bush, so I'm inclined to believe that it would take a remarkable showing by Bush in during training camp and the preseason to oust Bruton from that last spot. The depth chart at safety, then would be Mike Adams, Quinton Carter, Rahim Moore and David Bruton.

Wrapping Up:

This is a tough one and the competition is underway, things can, and likely will change, but as of this point, I'd say David Bruton seems to have the best chance of winning this competition, thought it's hardly a lock since the arrival of Jim Leonhard.

Thanks for reading, let me know your thoughts, and as I said before, if you have a competition you want us to look at, comment and let us know.