ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) David Bruton Jr. is delivering on his pledge to make a mark on Denver's defense in his seventh NFL season after being typecast as a special teams ace since coming out of Notre Dame in 2009.
Bruton capitalized on increased playing time down the stretch in 2014, when he collected all 24 of his tackles from scrimmage over the final month of the season and in the playoffs, including a career-best nine against the Bills.
When coach Gary Kubiak and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips arrived last offseason, Bruton said he wanted to be known as a difference-maker not only on special teams but in the Broncos' star-studded secondary, as well.
That's not an easy task with the likes of T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib, Darian Stewart, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby around, but he's been exactly that so far.
After being named special teams captain again this summer, Bruton has made a big play on defense in each of Denver's three wins so far.
''It's been awesome, hasn't it?'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ''I know as a coach, I haven't been around him long, but it's been special. I came here, he's been a backup, he's been a special teams player, he's been a captain, but yeah, has he played well defensively.
''He's a great example of a pro who continues to stay the course and battle and thinks of himself as a starter and not just a special teams player. It has really showed up. We're only three weeks deep and he has been a factor in every week. (I'm) just very proud of David. He's a leader on the team and doing a great job.''
In the opener, he broke up Joe Flacco's pass to tight end Crockett Gillmore that Stewart snatched away for a game-ending interception in the final seconds that sealed Denver's 19-13 win over the Ravens.
At Kansas City the following week, Bruton punched the football from Jamaal Charles' grasp at the Denver 6, the first of five takeaways in Denver's 31-24 victory.
And last week at Detroit, he snared Matt Stafford's pass at midfield intended for Calvin Johnson with the Broncos clinging to a 17-12 lead with 3:37 remaining and the Broncos drove down for an insurance touchdown.
''He got some experience last year in our nickel and dime packages and now he's really put it all together,'' linebacker Brandon Marshall said.
Bruton said he figured he'd parlay his increased playing time on defense last season with a new coaching staff to get a fresh shot at earning a bigger role in 2015.
''I've been heralded as a special teams guy for years and I can't necessarily downplay it. I've been here in the league and here with the Broncos for that reason for so long,'' Bruton said. ''Having a fresh set of eyes, going out there and competing and still building on what I started last year, it's great. I'm relishing the opportunity and the moments and taking full advantage of any chance that I get.''
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