If there’s anyone on the Redskins that could safely provide a scouting report on each of his teammate’s performances during this weekend’s rookie minicamp, it’s cornerback Jimmy Moreland.
The James Madison University product, taken in the seventh round by the Redskins a couple weeks ago, has made the term “ball hawk” his label on the football field. But it’s his work in the classroom where that’s all been possible.
“I like to watch every play from every practice,” Moreland said. “I go back and watch it three or four times.”
This is the eager appetite of a rookie embarking on his first weekend of football in a professional uniform and helmet, especially after waiting months to suit up and hit the field. But Moreland’s resume and desire to devour tape seems destined to transcend the early excitement of his green professional career.
The past few days have been a learning experience. Moreland admitted that the JMU playbook primarily focused on playing man coverage, with occasional disguises thrown in, “but there’s so many different stunts and keys to change the coverages in this playbook,” he said.
"You have to be always on beat, always on point,” Moreland said. “They are not waiting on you. The playbook is right there. They expect you to know the playbook before you get into the meeting. So, you always got to be head up on the game and keep your best foot forward."
Moreland did that over the weekend. Despite being beat on occasion during a 1-on-1’s (a natural outcome during these kinds of drills), Moreland showed his propensity to be physical at the line of scrimmage and stay in line with receivers down the field.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been back on the field,” he said. “Getting back football ready is a big thing for me, and just being around the guys, all the rookies- they’re in the same spot as me and we’re just encouraging each other.”
His penchant for interceptions – he's JMU’s all-time leader with 18 interceptions, 13 of which came over the past two seasons, with six being returned for touchdowns – goes beyond just himself. At one point during minicamp, he implored a defensive back to pick a deep ball that came down near his chest.
“I’m a pick machine,” Moreland said. “So I’m trying to get that turnover ratio up and get my defense off the field and give my offense momentum back.”
"He's a playmaker,” head coach Jay Gruden said after drafting him. “He's player of the year in his conference, he's a team captain and I like the fact that he gets his hands on a lot of balls. He's very talented, he's quick, quick-twitched. He played corner. He played some nickel in the bowl games that he played in, moved around a little bit. I think, as far as crystal balls concerned, you're going to look at him at both corner and nickel. I think he's got the skill set that fits nickel extremely well.”
Take a look at photos of day two of Redskins 2019 Rookie Mini-Camp.
When facing quarterback Dwayne Haskins this weekend, interceptions were harder to come by. Moreland accredits that to his decision-making in the pocket, and laughed that Haskins knows him well since some of the quarterback’s friends attended JMU.
“He’s a great player overall,” Moreland said. “Like I said, he makes great decisions, he knows his keys. I can tell he’s done film a lot. He’s always that player that encourages us, he’s going to be our quarterback for the season.”
Moreland has had support so far. Linebacker Andrew Ankrah, whom the Redskins signed this offseason, is a fellow JMU alumnus, and has offered him transportation to and from the facility along with the comforts of friendship to guide him through the process.
For Moreland, and the rest of the rookie class, the first hurdle is now behind him.
“Yeah, this feels real,” said Moreland, digesting the weekend. “Once you get up here, you get acclimated being around the coaches and stuff like that. And you just gotta put your best foot forward.”