Redskins safety David Bruton has ring, says 'I'm ready for a bigger role'

Safety David Bruton played 446 snaps for Denver last season. In the previous four years, he played a combined 494. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

ASHBURN, Va. -- David Bruton Jr. got the ring; now he wants something else he’s never had: a full-time starting job. That’s why the safety signed with the Washington Redskins this offseason.

He hasn’t won any job yet -- it’s still June after all -- though he is working with the starters ahead of Duke Ihenacho, his main competition. Ihenacho is coming off two seasons ended early by injuries, limiting him to 12 snaps.

But this is Bruton’s best shot to show he’s not a part-time player. In Denver, Bruton was a special teams ace.

"It means a lot," he said after an organized team activity practice Wednesday. "It means I’m seen as more than a special teams player. I’m ready for a bigger role and a stronger role for a defense."

The Redskins have been searching -- and searching -- for more than stop-gap answers at safety for nearly a decade. They traded for Dashon Goldson last offseason, but cut him earlier in this one. Now, they have turned to a former special teams standout, paired with an ex-cornerback (DeAngelo Hall) hoping that provides an answer for at least a few years. Bruton, who turns 29 in July, started eight games in seven seasons with Denver, including three in 2015.

It’s difficult to truly tell how a safety is playing in the spring. There is no live tackling, a big part of the job is coming up to make plays, and that’s tough to gauge until preseason games begin. But the Redskins like Bruton’s qualities.

"David Bruton is a phenomenal kid," Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "Just another great addition, not only as a football player but as a leader. You know, we lost a great leader in Dashon Goldson in that room. I think David is going to do a great job, not only with his playmaking ability on the field, but with his leadership. He’s just that type of guy in the meeting room, in the weight room, on the practice field, in the locker room. That’s great when you get a veteran player that is not only a really good football player, he’s a great leader. It’s great for the camaraderie of the group."

It’s needed. Hall continues to transition from cornerback. Fellow ex-cornerback Will Blackmon joined him in that transition this offseason.

"I feel I’m responsible for the whole group, whether veterans or rookies, or whether changing positions," Bruton said. "My mentality is to come in and be a leader, help the team win in any way shape or form -- whether it’s helping guys be knowledgeable with the playbook or opponent."

The safeties would meet at 7:30 in the morning before practices, an informal session to help one another study and, as Bruton said, "get us squared away and straight on the field."

Bruton played 446 snaps for Denver last season -- in the previous four years he played a combined 494. The Broncos, of course, had the NFL’s best defense en route to a Super Bowl win. Two of Bruton’s three career interceptions and two of his five forced fumbles occurred last season. Though his storyline appears similar to Jeron Johnson, it does not make him a sequel.

Johnson signed with Washington last offseason before getting cut in March. He was a backup safety who signed with Washington after consecutive Super Bowl appearances by Seattle. Johnson was much less experienced, with only 249 snaps in his first four seasons combined, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

But there’s no guarantee the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Bruton will be the answer, either. However, he’s a stronger leader and considered a better special teams player than Johnson.

"Every time I stepped on the field, whether I was coming in when someone gets hurt or coming in on third downs and having to cover [Rob Gronkowski], I’m trying to make a play to help our team win," Bruton said. "I felt last year I did that quite a bit, and I want to keep doing that."