With military members present at Redskins' OTAs on Wednesday, many players felt compelled to put on a show for our nation’s protectors on the field.
But no one stood out quite like seventh-round defensive back Jimmy Moreland, whose trio of interceptions captivated servicemembers, coaches and teammates alike.
"Yeah, he’s a fun guy to watch," head coach Jay Gruden said afterwards. "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."
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has been coaching since 2001, and he said he's never seen one player corral three interceptions in a single practice until Moreland accomplished the feat Wednesday.
“I expect to make plays,” Moreland said after practice. “Whatever play comes to me I have to do my job. It's to not let the receiver catch the ball and to catch the picks."
Moreland's ability to frustrate opposing quarterbacks stems from several factors. For one, he was primarily an offensive player growing up and in high school. It was not until he arrived at James Madison University that his defensive coordinator placed him in the secondary.
This experience on the opposite end of the field allows Moreland to anticipate throws and react accordingly. And while coverage schemes and coaching play a part in this success, it's Moreland’s intuition and vision that fuel his mental awareness.
Moreland is also brimming with confidence. Some critique his 5-foot-10, 179-pound frame while others point to his small school ties. But Moreland, a self-proclaimed "pick machine," does not concern himself with these perceived drawbacks. He set a school record with 18-career interceptions at James Madison, 13 of which came over his final two seasons and six of which he returned for touchdowns.
As a Redskin he's already added four interceptions, all of which came during the two OTAs days open to the media. "They put me to work on those days," Moreland joked, but in reality he's just doing his job. He also credits Manusky and veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with enriching his playmaking abilities with courage and advice.
"I know I can bring it and D-up, get the guys laughing, and also make a lot of good plays," Moreland said. "Just staying focused and just being in the film room helps a lot.”
Focus and poise describe the eager rookie perfectly. On one occasion, he ripped the ball away from a wide receiver on a screen play. On another, he jumped in front of a Dwayne Haskins' pass at the goal line.
The other two interceptions were off receiver tips or defensive deflections that Moreland kindly grabbed out the sky -- further showcasing what the 227th-overall pick can provide for the Redskins' secondary.
“My defensive coordinator ... always told us if we went to the ball, good things would happen,” Moreland said. “You never know what can happen, like with those tipped interceptions. Just tipped and I get it, and it’s an interception in my hands now.”