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Roster Review: Cornerbacks

Posted Mar 5, 2012

With free agency and the NFL Draft fast approaching, Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the Redskins' roster position by position. Up next: cornerbacks.


With free agency and the NFL Draft fast approaching, Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the Redskins' roster position by position. Up next: cornerbacks.

With the new brand of NFL offenses favoring a vertical attack, cornerbacks are called on to do more than ever against bigger, more physical receivers. While some schemes favor safety help over the top, premiere corners can be trusted to cover their receiver on an island.

The Redskins hoped that DeAngelo Hall would fill that role for the 2011 squad, after making it to the Pro Bowl with six interceptions in 2010. He was named a defensive captain heading into the 2011 season.

Lining up against some of the best receivers in the league, Hall led the team with 20 passes defended, while logging three interceptions to tie Oshiomogho Atogwe for the team lead. Hall posted his second-consecutive 100-tacke season as well.

Hall's best game of the year came in Week 12 against the Seahawks, when he defended six passes and posted five tackles and an interception. For his efforts, he was awarded NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

In an effort to pair Hall with another quality corner, the Redskins signed local product Josh Wilson before 2011 training camp. Wilson was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2007, and spent 2010 with the Baltimore Ravens before hitting free agency.

Wilson started a career-high 16 games and provided a solid presence both on the outside receiver and in the slot.

He seemed to perform especially well in divisional games last season, particularly Week 3 against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. After teammate LaRon Landry forced a fumble on a downfield throw, Wilson recovered the ball along the sidelines before rolling out of bounds.

Late in the season, Wilson recorded an interception in the end zone to stymie a New York Giants drive during a 23-10 Redskins win over the eventual Super Bowl champions.

On the season, Wilson finished with 62 tackles, 18 passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a fumble recovered.

In his third season with the Redskins, Kevin Barnes served primarily as the Redskins nickel cornerback, lining up against receivers in the slot. He appeared in a career-high 15 games in 2011, with one start.

Barnes finished the season with 28 tackles and two interceptions. He was used as a blitzer on occasion and had six quarterback pressures.

Going into training camp, the Redskins anticipated veteran help from cornerback Phillip Buchanon. After serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, Buchanon returned but was never able to overcome a lingering neck injury from the previous season.

Buchanon appeared in one game before being placed on the season-ending injured reserve.

In his third NFL season, Byron Westbrook served primarily on special teams. Late in the year, he saw increased action as a nickel cornerback. The Washington, D.C., product was credited with 10 tackles and four passes defended.

Brandyn Thompson, a 2011 sixth-round draft pick, split time on the Redskins' roster and practice squad. He saw limited action on defense, posting two tackles.

Travon Bellamy, a first-year cornerback who also has experience at safety, is a developmental prospect. He spent time on the Redskins' practice squad last year and joined the roster on a futures contract after the 2011 season ended.


GARY FITZGERALD'S POSITIONAL ANALYSIS

While it's likely that starters Hall and Wilson will return in 2012, the Redskins may take the long view at cornerback and add more young talent to the position.

Hall is in his prime at age 29. He was solid in coverage, but he posted fewer interceptions. He was beaten for big plays by Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and Dallas's Dez Bryant twice.

Coaches lauded Wilson's play last year and the 26-year-old seemed to grow in confidence in the Redskins' defense as the season progressed.

Barnes, a 2009 third-round draft pick, is perhaps entering a pivotal year in his career. The Maryland product needs to become more of a playmaker in his fourth NFL season.

Buchanon enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. It would be surprising if the 10-year veteran returned to the Redskins next year.

Westbrook is a restricted free agent. How he performed in his late-season stint as the primary nickel corner may determine whether he's tendered a contract for 2012.

Thompson should get a closer look in off-season work and training camp.


Three NFL Cornerbacks Eligible for Free Agency

As of March 5, 2012; names listed are in no particular order

-- Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans: Since becoming a full-time starter in 2007, Finnegan has missed only three games to injury, and none in the last two years. Perhaps the best talent of a solid free agent class, Finnegan has a scrappy reputation that famously boiled over in a brawl with Texans receiver Andre Johnson in 2010.

-- Chris Carr, Baltimore Ravens: With the ability to play any position in the secondary, as well as provide a spark in the return game, Carr is an intriguing free agent option. In his first two seasons in Baltimore, he was the Ravens’ most consistent cornerback before being limited by a hamstring injury in 2011. At 28 years old, Carr is still in his prime and could have some quality years left if he can get healthy.

-- Brandon Carr, Kansas City Chiefs: At 6-0, 207 pounds, Carr has the size to match up with top receivers. He has a nose for the football, with four interceptions in 2011. He has never missed a game in his four-year career and has been a starter in Kansas City since Week 1 of his rookie season.

Three Cornerbacks Available In the NFL Draft

As of March 5, 2012; names listed are in no particular order

Morris Claiborne, LSU: A two-year starter at LSU, Claiborne posted 11 career interceptions including six last year. His size stands out – he is 6-0 and 185 pounds and possesses great athleticism if not elite speed. He has unusually long arms, traits that should allow him to match up well with any type of receiver. Claiborne also doesn’t shy away from tackling in run defense – he posted 51 tackles last year.

Brandon Boykin, Georgia: Boykin has showcased good athleticism and speed with his 5-9, 183-pound frame. At the Senior Bowl, he displayed good technique as a cover corner and was consistently able to fend off passes to some of taller wide receivers. At Georgia, Boykin was a three-year starter, logging nine interceptions and 18 pass break-ups in his career.

Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska: Dennard, 5-10 and 205 pounds, was a three-year starter for the Huskers and played alongside Redskins safety DeJon Gomes. Dennard posted four interceptions as a junior but offenses shied away from him last year. Scouts say he should be solid in press coverage, given his frame.