Instead of becoming the latest Commanther — a term that NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay coined to describe players who have suited up for Ron Rivera on both the Panthers and the Commanders — James Bradberry opted to sign with the Eagles on Wednesday.
Bradberry reportedly had more than 10 teams interested in his services after the Giants released him, and while it's unclear if Rivera's current franchise was a part of that mix, absolutely no one would faint from shock upon learning that the club did inquire about him. Ultimately, however, Bradberry is not reuniting with Rivera, meaning the coach will move forward with the current crop of corners he has.
So let's discuss that group.
A year ago, Washington's defense allowed the most opponent passing touchdowns in the NFL and ceded the 29th-most passing yards.
It's not like the unit deployed some sort of risk/reward strategy, either, seeing as it generated just 11 interceptions.
There was no good with the bad, really; it was all bad, and often times atrociously bad.
Now, football might be the most complementary sport of all, so laying the blame solely on the squad's 2021 corners wouldn't be right. The defensive pass rush was about average last season, the linebackers as a whole were lackluster and the safeties didn't begin really helping until Landon Collins was placed closer to the line of scrimmage.
Still, the cornerbacks — based on the above numbers and the many sequences involving blown coverages, penalties and missed tackles — weren't much of an asset.
And that's why it's worrisome that the bunch wasn't touched up much in the free agency or the draft.
The present depth chart at the position includes William Jackson III, Kendall Fuller, Benjamin St-Juste, Danny Johnson, Corn Elder, Troy Apke and seventh-round rookie Christian Holmes. Holmes is the only new name in that list, and he was by no means a huge investment.
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Jackson III and Fuller, in theory, should be impactful starters. They own the second- and fourth-highest cap hits on the roster, are experienced and remain in their primes.
Yet Jackson III took a while to adjust to Washington's schemes in 2021 after coming over from Cincinnati and was flagged for seven infractions in 12 games, while Fuller was uncharacteristically lost for the opening stretch of the schedule and registered only one pick. Neither's performance was satisfactory.
Behind them, meanwhile, St-Juste showed his rookie side a ton in the nine contests he was healthy enough for, Johnson chipped in admirably when called upon and veteran journeyman Darryl Roberts, um, existed.
So. Yeah. All together, it wasn't a banner campaign for the corners.
With that in mind, where are the reinforcements?
Well, Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew have told the media at multiple pressers that the acquisition of Carson Wentz (and his $28 million salary for this year) made it difficult for the front office to be aggressive on the open market. Not everyone is cool with that explanation, but it's the one they're rolling with.
As for the draft, the Commanders opted to use their Day 1 and Day 2 capital on a receiver (understandable) and then a defensive lineman and running back (less understandable, though yes, somewhat understandable). No point in bemoaning those selections because there's no undoing them.
Therefore, Rivera and the team's plan at corner appears to be: Bank on better results from Jackson III and Fuller, better results and better health from St-Juste and more impact from other spots such as those responsible for putting pressure on the quarterback.
That's not the most inspiring approach — having an obvious issue and then not doing much to improve said obvious issue isn't recommended in any walk of life — but maybe it can prove to be effective for Washington. It's at least possible.
Jackson III did seem to be more at ease with his responsibilities and more comfortable in zone following his initial struggles; unfortunately, injuries robbed him of five games.
Fuller's ceiling may not be as high as a Jalen Ramsey-type, but he's extremely intelligent, versatile and due for an uptick in the turnover department.
And St-Juste, with his imposing size and physicality, definitely looks the part and hinted at his potential last summer. Hopefully, getting more reps will lead to more success.
In many ways, Rivera's strategy at cornerback matches up with his actions everywhere else on the Commanders aside from quarterback. Instead of investing in outside resources, he's trusting his in-house options to step up, thrive against what's projected to be a lighter schedule and not spend as many weeks on injured reserve.
The decision to not get creative with finances in order to secure Bradberry is an example of that larger attitude on a smaller scale. The size of Rivera's regret about that choice and his overall construction of Washington's corners will be determined come the fall.