ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It’s a simple numbers game in the Denver Broncos defense as they move through offseason work.
There are roughly 1,000 snaps worth of playing time available at free safety. So, more snaps than anyone on the team played in the 2014 season are now up for grabs.
That’s because Rahim Moore, who led the team with 1,054 snaps played last season -- 51 more than safety T.J. Ward -- left in free agency and signed with the Houston Texans. And while the Broncos have several plans on the board at the moment, even the possibility of cornerback Bradley Roby playing safety in the team’s base defense, David Bruton Jr. knows an opportunity when he sees it.
“I feel as though I played extremely well when I had my opportunity last year, I feel like I played well throughout training camp last year as well, and I plan to carry that on,’’ Bruton said. “I feel confident. It’s tough to feel confident when you don’t have that opportunity throughout your last two or three seasons. The fact that I was finally granted that opportunity and now had a chance to shine, I just feel like I’m going into these OTAs, training camp and the season with a huge amount of confidence. I feel like my chest may be a little bigger -- not from (Broncos strength and conditioning coach) Luke (Richesson) making us do push-ups all day. I envision myself playing a lot more. I envision myself starting.’’
Bruton has just begun his seventh season with the Broncos and has been a special teams stalwart for much of that time -- he has been the special teams captain in recent seasons -- but last year found his way into some of the specialty packages on defense.
After playing 14 snaps on defense in the first 12 games of the season, Bruton worked his way into some of the passing-down packages, including a seven-defensive back look, and played 59, 27, 43 and 45 plays in the Broncos’ last four games of the regular season.
And the Broncos find themselves, with a potential 10-player draft class on the way as well, working through possible solutions at the position in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 look.
Coach Gary Kubiak has spoken about the prospect of Roby playing some safety to get him on the field more on early downs, but that still leaves open what the Broncos would do in the deep middle of the field when they move into the nickel and dime. Omar Bolden has played both cornerback and safety in his time with the Broncos, and the team has tinkered with the idea of trying cornerback Kayvon Webster in more of a hybrid role as well.
“Every year we’ve moved a corner to safety, whether it’s Omar or talks of Kayvon or Roby or whomever they’re thinking about moving out there from corner to safety,’’ Bruton said. “I’ve seen it all. All I can do is keep my head down and keep plugging away.
“There’s nothing really that I can do about the coaches’ decisions as far as who’s playing which position. I’m going to just play mine and I’m going to play it the best I can. Hopefully they give me that opportunity when I show that I can play as good or better than anybody else.’’
Earlier this week, Bruton recalled the 2011 draft, when as a third-year hopeful at safety, he saw the Broncos take Moore in the second round, then select safety Quinton Carter as one of their two fourth-round picks.
This year the safety class is not considered particularly deep by personnel executives around the league, which is at least one reason the Broncos addressed the position in free agency when they signed former Baltimore Ravens safety Darian Stewart. Stewart started 14 games for the Ravens last season to go with six starts for the Rams in 2013 as well as 13 starts for St. Louis in 2011.
Bruton fully expects to again have a full docket of special teams duties, but again is hopeful his reliability and play on those units can open a door or two on defense.
“That’s exactly what it is,’’ Bruton said. “The year that they did bring Rahim and (Carter) in, I was on the outs. (Then special teams coach) Jeff Rodgers had talked to me before the Seattle preseason game and said, ‘Hey, you need to make a splash on special teams. It’s between you or (Josh) Bush, or whatever, for the final safety spot.’ And that fueled me up. ... That’s what solidified me staying here that year and then propelled me to continue my career here.’’