With training camp set to begin on July 25, Redskins.com is previewing the current state of the Redskins' roster, continuing with the team’s cornerbacks.
The Redskins will head to training camp with veteran Josh Norman leading a group that will likely rely on its younger players to step into key roles this fall.
-- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
-- Jimmy Moreland
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:
Last year, the Redskins’ cornerback group was shaken up after losing Kendall Fuller in a trade that brought quarterback Alex Smith to Washington, but this year is different. Losing no starters from last season, the cornerbacks group remains steady.
The group’s leader, Norman, enters his eighth NFL season and his fourth with the Redskins. In his career, Norman’s 380 tackles, 13 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles have made him one of the league's top cornerbacks.
Entering this season, Norman is high on this year's unit.
“We have some ballhawks, man,” Norman said in June. “We really do. When you bring in a guy like [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie], it’s crazy what he can do in his career. You've got [Adonis Alexander], Fabian [Moreau]. We've got the new rookie: seventh round guy, [Jimmy] Moreland, who’s been playing really well up to this point. We've got a lot of fresh [players] that are back in the secondary and we’re just going to try to — not even try, we’re going to bring it all together with Coach Ray Horton, who’s a phenomenal coach."
Quinton Dunbar, another experienced cornerback, signed with the Redskins as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2015. He converted to cornerback after playing wide receiver in college and has spent the past four seasons in the secondary, amassing five interceptions, 27 pass deflections and 113 total tackles. He played seven games last season before being placed on Injury Reserve with a nerve injury with his leg, but he'll be back to full strength for the 2019 season.
“I feel awesome. I feel 100 [percent],” Dunbar said during OTAs in June. “I feel 100 [percent] and I feel way better than I did last year. I’m just looking forward to the future.”
Rounding out the unit are several younger players determined to carve out roles for themselves both this fall and moving forward.
Fabian Moreau, a third-round selection in 2017, is seen as a popular breakout candidate after contributing six pass deflections, three forced fumbles and an interception the previous two seasons. At the end of OTAs, head coach Jay Gruden called Moreau and inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton two of the team's most-improved players.
Three additional cornerbacks joined the fold last season: seventh-round pick Greg Stroman, sixth-round Supplemental Draft selection Adonis Alexander and undrafted free agent Danny Johnson. Stroman made the biggest contribution of the trio during his rookie campaign, recording 38 tackles, four pass deflections an interception and a forced fumble. Johnson totaled 14 tackles and one pass deflection, while Alexander made four tackles in nine appearances.
The final piece to the Redskins’ cornerback puzzle are their four newcomers: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jimmy Moreland, Ashton Lampkin and Deion Harris.
Rodgers-Cromartie, entering his 12th NFL season, provides the Redskins with another veteran defensive back capable of shaping his younger counterparts, such as Moreland, a seventh-round selection in this year's draft. The self-proclaimed "pick machine" was one of the most-impressive players throughout the offseason. He totaled five interceptions during practice sessions open to the media and recorded three in one day -- a feat defensive coordinator Greg Manusky had never seen in his nearly two decades of coaching.
"He’s a fun guy to watch," Gruden said. "He’s always around the ball, excellent ball skills. That’s what drew us to him, and he’s proven to be quite the athlete. He’s picked up the system very well. He's playing inside and outside. I’ve been very impressed with him."
WHAT TO WATCH:
One unanswered question heading into training camp is who will make up the starting secondary come Week 1 against Philadelphia.
The Redskins' safeties pose talent with free-agent signing Landon Collins, and the starting cornerback opposite of Norman could help amplify the secondary's potential. The likely front runners for the most playing time as of now are Dunbar and Moreau, but any one of Stroman, Alexander, Johnson, Rodgers-Cromartie and Moreland could crack the rotation once training camp begins later this month.
“We’ve got a talented group of men for that opportunity,” Horton said during veteran minicamp in early June. “If you ask any of these players, my favorite word in the dictionary is opportunity because you give everybody a shot. How do I know who’s going to be hurt, who’s going to not be hurt, what happens and how things fall out? So, I’m looking for a fantastic battle of some guys trying to win a job.”