Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 12, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.
—The Redskins last played a game 184 days ago. It will be 62 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.
—Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 3; Preseason opener @ Falcons 30; Final roster cut 53
Where does the Norman-Breeland duo rank?
Last week on NFL.com, former Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor ranked the top cornerback tandems in the NFL going into the 2016 season. His top duo was the Broncos’ Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. It’s hard to argue with ranking the pair of cornerbacks on the defense that spearheaded the Broncos’ run to the Lombardi Trophy at the top.
Taylor goes through his top five in detail. He ranks Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu of the Cardinals second (Taylor admits he’s fudging a bit as Mathieu is a safety/slot corner), followed by the Bengals’ duo of Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones, the Giants Donimique Roders-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins, and Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter of the Bears.
He also mentioned the Chargers’ and Bills’ corner tandems as just having missed the list.
The issue with this ranking, besides the fact that it’s not complete, is that it looks at duos. With NFL teams lining up with three or more wide receivers on over half of the snaps it makes more sense to talk about corners in groups of three.
But that’s not the way this was done so let’s look at how the Redskins’ top two corners, Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland, stack up against Taylor’s top picks.
Norman, a first-team All-Pro in 2015, playing opposite a replacement-level cornerback likely would qualify the Redskins’ corners for a spot in the top half of the league. Breeland is still learning. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks throwing at him had a 93.1 passer rating. That’s better than the league average rating of 88.4. You have to be careful putting too fine a point on PFF’s numbers like this but it’s still safe to say that he’s somewhere around average in that department. And Breeland had just two interceptions last year, the same number he had as a rookie.
Those of us who follow the Redskins closely see a player on the rise. I don’t think that Breeland is quite there yet and in the eyes of the rest of the league he still has a lot to prove.
Then again, the numbers don’t show that Jenkins, who was lured from the Rams to the Giants with a mega free agent contract, is all that much better than Breeland. Quarterbacks threw for a 93.8 passer rating against him and he has five interceptions in the last two years. If you want to give Jenkins a bit of an edge because he has been around for two years longer and has made more big plays (six career return TDs) that’s fine but it’s not like Jenkins is miles ahead of Breeland.
And you would have to say that Norman is a cut above Rodgers-Cromartie based on All-Pro honors and a markedly better pass rating against him (Norman 58.1, DRC 67.2). Somehow, DRC made the Pro Bowl last year despite the fact that the Giants had the worst-ranked pass defense in the NFL (yes, they even ranked lower than the Saints).
So without putting every CB duo in the NFL under the microscope I think it’s safe to say that if the Giants have a top five pair of cornerbacks the Redskins have a tandem somewhere in the top 10.
In July, a top-10 pair of corners plus $2.60 will get me my afternoon venti coffee at Starbucks. But with the addition of Norman and the continued development of Breeland they should be able to improve their pass defense, which ranked 26th in yards allowed.
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