Height: 6'1" Weight: 207 lbs
College: San Jose State
Drafted: Undrafted (2012)
The Washington Redskins picked up Duke Ihenacho off of waivers at the end of last August with hopes that he would shore up their porous secondary. Instead, the former Denver Bronco ended up on IR just three weeks into the season. If he can stay healthy this year, he's expected to compete with Jeron Johnson for the starting strong safety job.
#1. Ihenacho was signed by the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2012, and though he played in just two games as a rookie, he quickly worked his way up the depth chart to earn a starting job in 2013. He started 17 games at strong safety that year, including the Broncos' 43-8 loss in the Super Bowl, in which he piled up nine tackles. He was then waived that offseason when Denver signed free agent T.J. Ward, which was when Washington snatched him up.
#2. Known primarily as a run-stopper and a playmaker, the former San Jose State Spartan broke up six passes and forced three fumbles in 2013. He also forced a fumble and broke up a pass that preseason, but otherwise he hasn't played enough to make a significant impact.
#3. Much like his competition for the starting SS job, Jeron Johnson, Ihenacho simply hasn't had enough live game action to prove his worth. Johnson was stuck behind a pair of elite safeties in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, so he could never make it onto the field for more than a few plays at a time. Ihenacho has had a handful opportunities to earn a full-time starting role, he just can't catch a break on the injury front. With Brandon Meriweather suspended for the first two games of the season, the job was wide open for him last year, but he was still new to the team and thus Bacarri Rambo got the Week 1 start. Rambo was a disaster, but Washington didn't have any better options, so he got the start again in Week 2, though Ihenacho at least made it onto the field in that game.
Meriweather returned for Week 3, but the Redskins weren't exactly sold on him as a starter — he was simply the best of a lot of subpar options. Ihenacho still could have easily overtaken him for the top spot, but he fractured his heel bone in Week 3, and that was the end of his first season in Washington. It was an unfortunate development for the promising young player, who has dealt with foot and ankle injuries throughout his football career even since his high school days. Still, the Redskins liked his potential enough to re-sign him this offseason.
#4. Ihenacho made waves this offseason when he fired off a series of tweets about the disparity between NFL contracts and NBA contracts, specifically the guaranteed money in each. No matter your stance on the matter, it's pretty remarkable that NBA players nowhere near the superstar level — looking at you, Khris Middleton — regularly earn more guaranteed money than the top tier of NFL players.
All this guaranteed money NBA throwing. Meanwhile the NFL, which generates the most money wont even make the league minimum $1M— Duke Ihenacho (@NachoLyfe) July 1, 2015
Yes $1M minimum. That means every single player's salary in the NFL should start there. Highest risk of injury..brain trauma, richest league— Duke Ihenacho (@NachoLyfe) July 1, 2015
No security in football. Obviously unless you hit the lick.— Duke Ihenacho (@NachoLyfe) July 1, 2015
The whole "there are too many players in the NFL to pay that much" argument doesn't hold up— Duke Ihenacho (@NachoLyfe) July 1, 2015
The league is more than capable.— Duke Ihenacho (@NachoLyfe) July 1, 2015
We players don't even speak our opinion on this because we don't wanna be fined or punished or whatever. But most of us feel this way.— Duke Ihenacho (@NachoLyfe) July 1, 2015
"If you don't like it, find a new job".......I hate when people say that. Quit, instead of fighting for change...that solves nothing.— Duke Ihenacho (@NachoLyfe) July 2, 2015
That's like saying "if you don't like racism, find a new country"...just let things be how things are huh...that's wack.— Duke Ihenacho (@NachoLyfe) July 2, 2015
#5. Everybody likes rooting for players that have fun quirks, and Ihenacho fits that mold. For evidence, look no further than his habit of taping his cleats to look like, well, not cleats. Come on, even Champ Bailey liked that about him when they were teammates in Denver.
Bottom Line: If he can stay healthy — and that's a very big if — Ihenacho should give Jeron Johnson a run for his money for the top SS spot. Ultimately, Johnson is the slight favorite if for no other reason than he was the free agent brought in to start, but the competition is nowhere near over. The two have split snaps with the first team throughout training camp, and it will be interesting to see how Jay Gruden and Joe Barry divide the time during preseason.