Measurables: 6-foot-2, 217 pounds.
2014 stats: 21 combined tackles, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles.
When David Bruton left the collegiate ranks of Notre Dame, he had tallied 214 tackles and seven interceptions, including a prolific senior season that saw him notch 97 total tackles and a team-high four interceptions.
His skill-set and college production led former Denver Broncos head-man Josh McDaniels to expend a 2009 fourth round pick on him. Bruton was drafted in the same Broncos draft class as Darcel McBath—a second round pick—but out-worked and thus out-lasted him in Denver. He also out-lasted Rahim Moore—a 2011 second round pick.
Bruton carved out a role for himself in Denver as a special teams ace and a backup safety. In his six years in Denver, he leads the team with 43 special teams stops. Bruton finally received some league-wide recognition in 2012, when he was elected as a Pro Bowl alternate on special teams. The Broncos signed him to a three-year extension the following offseason.
Bruton has appeared in 91-of-96 possible games throughout his career. For two consecutive seasons, his brethren in the locker room have voted him a team captain. That additional responsibility seemed to trigger in him a resurgence in his performance. Last season, he saw a career high in defensive snaps (193), when the Broncos secondary were bitten by the injury bug.
Related Story: David Bruton Confident He Can Play On Defense
Bruton performed excellently, earning a +4.5 cumulative grade via Pro Football Focus—the highest mark of all Broncos safeties—including T.J. Ward. Granted, Bruton only played a fraction of the snaps that Ward did, but there’s no question that he made the most of them.
Following Rahim Moore’s departure in free agency this past March, I was curious to see if the Broncos would go out and spend to bring in a top-tier safety. They did sign Darian Stewart, but he was not among the most sought after players at his position.
Related Story: Early Broncos 53-Man Roster Projection: Safety
The Broncos selected a safety in the NFL Draft, but it was a compensatory seventh round pick—Josh Furman. Going into OTAs, Stewart took the lead as the first-team free safety, but Bruton has been nipping at his heels. Although he might be better suited at strong safety, Bruton has the versatility to play either safety position.
More Broncos Stories
If nothing changes at the top of the depth chart in training camp, when the Broncos run their “Big” nickel sub-package (three safeties, three corners) during the season, Bruton will be the third safety. Last season, Jack Del Rio liked to lean on that personnel grouping to take advantage of Ward’s abilities in the box.
Ward would basically line up as the second nickel linebacker next to Brandon Marshall. There were times that the “Big” nickel was very effective and I expect new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to run a version of it again in 2015, which will result in Bruton possibly seeing another career-high in snaps.
In the video below, a young Bruton talks about the Fighting Irish.