The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.
The Redskins never really got settled at what is essentially a starting position in a league where three- and four-wide receiver sets are the norm. Dashaun Phillips played the slot the first few games before a combination of a hamstring injury and ineffectiveness put him on the bench. Rookie third-round pick Kendall Fuller took over and it was hoped he would seize the job for a long time. But he got lit up with quarterbacks posting a 120 passer rating when throwing into his coverage, per Pro Football Focus. Fuller wound up being a healthy scratch late in the season. Veteran Greg Toler handled the slot down the stretch.
Toler was not re-signed. Phillips and Fuller are back but it is not just a two-man competition for the nickel corner spot. While Bashaud Breeland would rather stay at one of the outside spots in his contract year (outside corners get paid more than slot guys), they could put Quinton Dunbar or rookie Fabian Moreau outside in nickel situations and have Breeland slide inside. While rookie seventh-round pick Josh Holsey is a long shot to land the job but as long as the job remains unsettled he will get a look.
And the winner is . . .
Tandler: Last year was a year to forget for Fuller. He suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee that ended his final year at Virginia Tech after three games. The injury hampered him during the offseason program and in training camp. Fuller was inactive for the first three games in part because of the knee and in part because he wasn’t ready. He struggled mightily, as noted above. But with the third-round pick invested in him, I think he gets first crack at grabbing the nickel job this year. Many analysts had Fuller rated as a first-round talent before his injury. If he is fully healthy I think that he has a very good shot at taking the job and not giving it up.
Finlay: No surprise that Tandler picked his fellow Hokie Fuller to take over the nickel cover spot. Fuller is a better player than he showed last year, but he will have to prove that starting in minicamp. Coaches lost their faith in him, particularly when he got torched by Stef Diggs and the Vikings. A full NFL offseason and a healthy knee could make a big difference. One name I would throw in that Tandler didn't mention would be Will Blackmon. The veteran was forced to move to safety in 2016 because the Redskins lacked viable options, but with an offseason that added D.J. Swearinger via free agency and Montae Nicholson in the draft, not to mention moving Su'a Cravens full-time to safety and the expected healthy return of DeAngelo Hall, Blackmon might be able to move back to corner. Playing primary nickel corner in the second half of the 2015 season, Blackmon made plays, logging two interceptions and three forced fumbles to go with eight broken up passes. Fuller might have the inside track, but I wouldn't count out the veteran Blackmon. There's also a scenario where Fabian Moreau could force his way onto the field, likely as an outside corner. If that happens, expect Breeland to bump inside. This would likely not happen until the midway point of the season at the earliest as Moreau is working back from injury and will need to learn the NFL game.
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