With training camp set to begin later this week, Redskins.com previews the current state of the Redskins' roster, continuing today with the team’s cornerbacks.
The Washington Redskins will head to training camp this year with veteran Josh Norman leading a group that will rely on its younger players to step into featured and starting roles this season.
-- Kendall Fuller
-- Bashaud Breeland
-- Orlando Scandrick
-- Adonis Alexander
-- Greg Stroman
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:
Once the confusion wore off, and the trade became a reality, the Redskins secondary began contemplating a defensive backs group without cornerback Kendall Fuller. A key piece in the swap for quarterback Alex Smith, Fuller had a breakout second season in Washington. Playing primarily in the slot position, he collected 55 tackles, 10 passes defensed, four interceptions and a forced fumble and will now bring his talents to Kansas City.
Another prominent figure the Redskins will be without this year is Bashaud Breeland, who was drafted by Washington in 2014 and provided a reliable four years, the last two playing opposite Norman. He played in 15 games last year and combined for 50 tackles, 19 passes defensed and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown.
Those are two vacancies the Redskins hope their younger corners are ready to fill. Specifically, Fabian Moreau and Quinton Dunbar, both of whom should have significantly more playing time and will battle for the second starting outside cornerback spot. Moreau had a solid rookie campaign, mostly playing, and occasionally flashing, on special teams, seeing time in all 16 games and grabbing 14 tackles. Dunbar, who signed a muti-year extension at the end of last year, had more time to improve in his third season, collecting 35 tackles, eight passes defensed and an interception, filling in where necessary when injuries occurred.
“I think [Dunbar] just wants to have an opportunity to play consistently, which he will this year,” defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said. “He didn’t always have that opportunity because he wasn’t the nickel corner. He wasn’t the starting right or left corner last year. I think he sees an opportunity. Yeah the contract is good, but just him knowing he’s going to play because he really believes in his ability. He believes in his progression and him getting better. I think he’s just competing and excited about the opportunity to get out there and show everybody how he’s progressed.
“I expect Fabian to be able to contribute to us,” Gray added. “At some point this year, he’s going to have to contribute to us. Again, he’s got a learning curve that’s gotten better. He’s been great in the meeting rooms, taking that stuff out here to the field. He’s only in his second year now.”
To provide more depth, the Redskins made the proper accommodations, signing longtime Dallas Cowboys veteran Orlando Scandrick, drafting Virginia Tech product Greg Stroman and taking his teammate Adonis Alexander in the supplemental draft.
Scandrick has played a little outside corner throughout OTAs and minicamp but would usually shift to the slot for the second half of practice. He’ll help provide more leadership to the group of younger undrafted cornerbacks at training camp this year, and should still be a formidable defensive player.
Stroman comes into the fold looking to mostly make his mark on special teams and competing with wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Trey Quinn to return punts. Adding his teammate in Alexander and returning role player Joshua Holsey, the Redskins should see some more battles to round out the unit and make a case for the active roster or practice squad.
Then, of course, there’s Norman, who finished up a whirlwind offseason that saw him become an acclaimed ballroom dancer, looking to make a bigger turnover impact this season. Because of his coverage skills, quarterbacks have decreasingly thrown towards his side of the field, but after being unable to haul in any interceptions this year, Norman is hoping to take advantage when those limited opportunities come this year.
WHAT TO WATCH:
The biggest question mark entering camp will be that second outside cornerback position. Will the Redskins use it as a position by committee or will they wait to see who emerges as the clear leader?
Despite DeAngelo Hall playing safety the last couple of seasons with the Redskins, his expertise at the cornerback position gave younger players an opportunity to glean valuable information. The Redskins’ acquisition of Scandrick wasn’t solely to provide a veteran presence, but it should help in a similar respect.
“Just having an experienced guy who’s been through a lot, he’s played corner and nickel,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “He communicates the defense very well and is a calming factor for those guys. When formations change and coverages might change, all that good stuff, it’s good to have a guy like Orlando who’s been there, done that and can communicate with the young guys. So he’s done very well, and I’ve been impressed with the way he’s stood out in practice.”
We’ll see how his presence impacts the rookies and younger corners in what should be a competitive group this year.