Jimmy Moreland was not expected to be here.
A seventh-round draft choice by Washington in 2019, Moreland fell in the draft despite turning in an excellent college career at FCS powerhouse James Madison. However, the cornerback turned heads during training camp last year as a rookie based on his ball-hawking ability, earning a spot on the 53-man roster. Now, he's one of the team's starting cornerbacks.
Moreland has a new defensive backs coach in Washington, as former NFL cornerback Chris Harris took over in the role this offseason. Harris, who played in the NFL for eight seasons before becoming a coach, brings plenty of experience to the DB room.
In an interview with NBC Sports Washington's Mitch Tischler, Harris said that Moreland reminds the coach a lot of himself when he was a young player in the league, largely due to the similar paths they each took to get to the NFL.
"You've always got a chip on your shoulder," Harris said. "Especially for guys like myself, guys like Jimmy, guys that don't go to Power Five conference schools."
Harris' NFL career began in a similar fashion as Moreland's. Part of the reason he wasn't selected until the sixth round of the 2005 NFL Draft was that, like Moreland, Harris played at an FCS school at Louisiana-Monroe.
Yet, Harris quickly earned a starting role for the Chicago Bears as a rookie and became a key contributor on a defense that went to the Super Bowl.
"You come in, whether you get drafted or don't get drafted -- Jimmy was seventh round, I was sixth round -- you've got a chip on your shoulder and kind of have to prove to everybody that 'I do belong here,'" Harris said.
"I got overlooked in college and high school," Harris said. "Same thing, Jimmy's a smaller guy who got overlooked. You've got this certain chip on your shoulder to prove to guys that you can play at this level. That's kind of how it goes when you're in that position."
With Kendall Fuller sidelined with an injury for Washington's season opener, the second-year cornerback had the opportunity to start on the outside against Philadelphia.
Moreland didn't disappoint. In fact, he made one of the biggest momentum-shifting plays in the contest.
With Washington trailing by 10 midway through the third quarter, the 25-year-old hauled in his first career interception, setting up the team's offense just outside the red zone. Washington would end up punching it in for a score, narrowing Philadelphia's lead to just three.
"I thought he wasn’t going to throw it, but he threw it," Moreland said of his interception postgame. "My attention was getting my eyes back to make a good play. I’m a jumper, so I went ahead and did that. I made a play on the ball. I couldn’t get to the end zone, but next time I know I’ll do that."
The Eagles struggled on offense for the remainder of the game, as Washington finished with 27 unanswered points and a divisional victory by double digits.
The play was the first takeaway of Moreland's career, one he said lifted "a huge weight off of [his] shoulders."
However, don't expect the satisfaction of that play to make Moreland content. He's played with the edge and competitiveness coaches love to see dating back to his JMU days.
"Last year, I played more inside. And this year, I’m getting my size up. These plays are going to happen," Moreland said. "I’m going to make them happen, and everybody’s behind you. I feel more encouragement."