As Donte Whitner Arrives, Redskins SS Duke Ihenacho Grabbing At Latest Starting Opportunity

Injury ended Duke Ihenacho's hold on the starting strong safety spot last season. Injuries elsewhere open the chance for a move back into the lineup.

ASHBURN -- Starting strong safety David Bruton is out, placed on injured reserve Wednesday after suffering a concussion in Sunday's win over Cleveland.

Three-time Pro Bowl safety Donte Whitner is in, signed as a free agent as the Redskins began their first full day of practice ahead of this weekend's game at Baltimore.

Duke Ihenacho is still standing and not shying away from any upcoming lineup battle.

When the Redskins next update their depth chart, both Week 1 starters won't be there. Injuries are both cruel and the reality of playing in the NFL. Two new players, Whitner and former Jaguars safety Josh Evans will be listed. 

"It's tough, man. You lose camaraderie a little bit, chemistry in a sense," Ihenacho told Breaking Burgundy of the changes which seemingly have hit this unit several years running. "We just have to keep rolling. Lost David, lost (DeAngelo) Hall. I think the key right now is understanding who we are and the opportunity we have. ...I feel comfortable in this position. I feel like I can step up. Play my game and be effective. It's not something we're going to panic about."

As for who lines up where this coming Sunday when the Redskins (2-2) meet the Ravens (3-1), Ihenacho said, "I don't know but I'm just going to assume I'm the starter. I just assume I'm the guy filling in for now. I'll be ready to go."

That's the job he had last season until a Week 1 wrist injury ended his campaign. That's also the job he may have regardless this coming week after stepping in for a struggling Burton against Cleveland.

"I've always looked at myself as a starter. I've always looked at myself as someone who could get the job done," the 27-year old said. "That mentality hasn't changed."

The addition of Whitner, 31, could eventually led to more changes if the former Bills and 49ers standout isn't quite ready for duty this week. The rugged defender with the nickname "Hitner" was surprisingly released by Cleveland in April. After receiving interest from a few teams including the Giants, Rams and Panthers, he signed with Washington.

“I don’t think I lost anything, so I think I can add everything in the world,” said Whitner, a Pro Bowl selection from 2012-2014. “If you actually look at it, I was maybe one of only five safeties to make the Pro Bowl three times out of the last four years. I believe that I can play. Cleveland decided to go young. …That’s last year’s chapter, that chapter is over and I’m glad to start a new, fresh chapter here.”

Ihenacho recalled Whitner's play with San Francisco, which happened to coincide with when current Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan worked in the 49ers front office.

"Him and Dashon Goldson were just wrecking stuff back there. I've been a fan of his game. I'm just excited to pick his brain, watch him practice, watch him play, learn what I can from from," Ihenacho said. 

Asked if the coaching staff provided any insight into his role, Whitner said, “If you go out there and you put it on tape and you’re the best guy, then you’re going to play,” Whitner said. “And believing in myself, I truly, no matter what locker room I step in, I feel like I’m going to be the best guy. ...They don’t have to tell me anything about a role, I just have to get myself ready and be very knowledgeable within this scheme and within this defense.”

Considering the defensive issues after four games, adding an experienced option and one known for taking down ball carriers is helpful. Cleveland gashed Washington on the ground or 163 yards on attempts (5.8 ypc) thanks in part to one missed tackle after another. Yet from that wreckage, Ihenacho sees the light.

"I think what's positive about it is that we knew what we were doing. They're weren't a lot of coverage busts," he said. "It was just missed tackling, technique, wrapping up. ...You're going to miss tackles. They get paid too. They're going to break tackles, juke people. The league is full of great player. ...We just have to focus on making tackles and we'll be alright.

Ben Standig is the Publisher of Breaking Burgundy and the Huddle Report's 2012 NFL Mock Draft champion. You can find him on Twitter @benstandig and on Google+.

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