Ed Andrieski/Associated Press
Free agent addition T.J. Ward is the team’s starting strong safety this year. He’s one of the best in the game at his position, and he will give the team more toughness and aggression on defense.
In addition to adding Ward, the Broncos should get Quinton Carter back from microfracture knee surgery that cost him almost all of the last two seasons. He is a versatile player who can stand out as a strong or free safety. The Broncos showed faith in him by keeping him around even though his road to recovery was long and winding.
That support meant a lot to Carter. “It means the world, especially in this business. They pretty much believed in me, and that gave me the confidence to just take my time and get healthy. Now I’m ready to make a difference.”
Carter has been lining up at strong safety when Ward is lined up at middle linebacker in the nickel package at minicamp. He’s also gotten an opportunity to line up at strong safety, while Ward has been nursing a minor hamstring injury this week.
Ward and Carter are both ahead of Duke Ihenacho on the depth chart.
He was an undrafted free agent the Broncos picked up in 2012 out of San Jose State. He bounced from the practice squad to the active roster multiple times as a rookie, but his playing style made him an instant favorite of the fans.
He began the 2013 season as a starter for the Broncos at strong safety. He recorded 11 solo tackles and one assist in the Week 1 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. It was his best game of the season, and he was slowed down by an ankle injury he suffered in the Week 2 win over the New York Giants.
Ihenacho is a big hitter, but he too often was out of position in coverage. This made him a favorite target of opposing quarterbacks as the season went on.
He seemed to lose some confidence last year, and it’s clear the Broncos wanted an upgrade at the position. Ihenacho was a starter last year, but there’s a good chance he won’t see the field much in 2014.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.