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Redskins expect CB Kendall Fuller to improve in 2017

Redskins expect CB Kendall Fuller to improve in 2017

Cornerback Kendall Fuller, the Redskins’ third-round pick in 2016, came in with high expectations. Some in the organization believed he was a first-round talent who fell in the draft due to concerns over a knee injury.

However, as a rookie he fell short of those expectations. Fuller played some slot cornerback but he was inactive early in the season and did not play a defensive snap in three of the Redskins’ last four games.

According to Pro Football Focus, opponents had a passer rating of 120 when targeting his coverage. Those numbers should be taken as more of an estimate of his performance than an exact stat but the bottom line is that Fuller did have problems in coverage as a rookie.

NFL scouts had their eyes on Fuller as he entered his junior season at Virginia Tech. But th knee injury ended his season after three games. While he perhaps could have used another year with the Hokies to let his knee get fully healthy and to refine his game, he decided to go pro.

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The Redskins believe that Fuller will be much better this year. For one thing, he will be fully healthy.

“I think last year he was probably about 85-90 percent,” said coach Jay Gruden. “You know, he fought through his rehab to get himself ready to play. He played some significant playing time for us, did some good things for us. But I think now, I think his body is a lot better, in a lot better shape. He is quicker, he is faster, he is more confident in what we are doing out here. I said yesterday I think it was that you will see a better Kendall this year.”

A rookie playing one of the toughest positions on the field has a big hill to climb even if he’s fully healthy. Regardless, the Redskins need a better performance from Fuller in 2017. He is their best hope at slot corner. Bashaud Breeland can play there but he is a starter on the outside. Dashaun Phillips was as shaky as Fuller last year, and Josh Holsey is a seventh-round rookie.

The person on the Redskins’ coaching staff who knows Fuller best is defensive backs coach Torrian Gray. He was the secondary coach for the Hokies when Fuller was playing well enough to pop up on the NFL’s radar. He has seen Fuller at his best.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense 

“Unfortunately, he had the injury at Virginia Tech,” said Gray, who was hired in January. “Last year, from what I saw on film, it’s going to be a much different Kendall Fuller this year. It’s fun to see him healthy and getting back to see the guy he can be.”

Fuller looked fine during the offseason practices that were open to the media. He didn’t make any big plays but there were no obvious errors on his part, either. Most will be happy if he plays well enough this year to keep the opposing slot receiver from having a big day. If he can also become a playmaker, like he was when he intercepted six passes as a true freshman in college, that will be a big bonus.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: Setting the final odds on the Redskins first-round draft pick

Need to Know: Setting the final odds on the Redskins first-round draft pick

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, April 23, three days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Setting the odds on the Redskins’ top pick

We have just three days left until the draft and it’s time to make the final predictions. For the last time before this draft, we’re going to break out the $100 in imaginary poker chips and see who is the favorite to be the Redskins’ top pick. 

Before we get started, all of these odds are set with the Redskins staying at No. 13. With a separate stack of chips, I’ll put $20 on them trading down, $80 on them staying put. There just isn’t an obvious team to deal with or a player that would be on the board to make a team want to move up. 

DT Vita Vea, $30—I would have this a little higher but I’m becoming less confident that he’ll be on the board when the Redskins draft at 13. Normally nose tackle isn’t a high-value position, but this is an odd draft and Vea is a freakish talent. He has to get past the Raiders picking tenth and the Dolphins at No. 11 and I’m not sure they will. 

S Derwin James, $20—If Vea is gone then there is a good chance that James will be there at 13, assuming that the four quarterbacks everybody thinks will go in the top 12 are indeed selected. Although the Redskins have D.J. Swearinger and Montae Nicholson at safety, the versatile James could find snaps all over the field, as a third safety to cover tight ends and perhaps even at slot corner. 

DT Da’Ron Payne, $15—It’s starting to look like he’ll be a reach at 13; his real value lays more in the late teens or early twenties. But the analysts’ consensus doesn’t necessarily match up with what the Redskins think. If they believe that Jim Tomsula can coach some pass rushing ability out of him, they could well have him graded high enough to go ahead and fill the need with the first-round pick. 

LB Roquan Smith, $10—His size may concern enough teams to leave him on the board until the Redskins are on the clock. I’m not sure that the Redskins would take him because they just re-signed Mason Foster and Zach Brown. But he is fast, hard hitting, and he may be too good to pass up. 

DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, $10—Many project him to be a slot corner in the NFL. A few years ago, many teams would hesitate to take a nickel corner in the first-round. But today, with teams lining up with three or more wide receivers on 63 percent of the snaps a slot corner is much more than a role player. Add Fitzpatrick’s ability to move back to safety and you have a player the Redskins should covet if he drops to 13. 

CB Denzel Ward, $10—I don’t give much of a chance of being on the board when the Redskins pick but stranger things have happened. He would be a steal at 13.

RB Derrius Guice, $5—I don’t think that this will happen, but I can’t look at all of the attention the Redskins have given to him and believe that there is a zero chance of them taking a running back this high in an RB-rich draft.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Rookie minicamp (5/11) 18
—OTAs start (5/22) 29
—Training camp starts (7/26) 94

The Redskins last played a game 113 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 139 days. 

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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

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