The Redskins rolled the dice a bit this offseason and entered Week 1 with Quinton Dunbar as their starting cornerback opposite Josh Norman. The plan worked.
Dunbar got off to a hot start this season, grabbing an interception in the team's Week 1 win in Arizona and playing a large role in Washington's early defensive success.
Things slowed down though when Dunbar suffered a msyterious injury at practice before a Week 7 contest against the Cowboys. Dunbar would miss that game against Dallas, and then another one Week 8 in New York.
The team revealed Dunbar was dealing with a nerve pain in his leg. At first it was in his shin, but later, the problem was in his hamstring.
Dunbar tried to play Week 9 against Atlanta, but was ineffective and played less than half of the defensive snaps. He sat out two more games, against the Bucs and then the Texans, before a disastrous return against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
On one play against Dallas WR Amari Cooper, Dunbar simply fell down and did not have the speed to catch up. In the second half of that game, it became clear Dunbar was not healthy, and he couldn't match Cooper's speed at any point.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden acknowledged Dunbar was not at 100 percent in the second half of the Dallas game, and it sounds like the coach doesn't know when his cornerback will get back to full strength.
"This is a unique deal. When you're talking about the nerve and you're talking about that area for a guy who utilizes his speed, it's tough," Gruden said. "We're trying to do everything we can as far as rehab is concerned, seeing the doctors and specialists for the nerve, but at the end of the day it's all about what he feels comfortable with. Last week, he felt comfortable enough to play but, you could see he was struggling with it as the game went on."
Without Dunbar, the Redskins must lean on rookies Greg Stroman and Danny Johnson. Stroman was taken in the seventh round and Johnson was undrafted. While both players have shown some flashes, neither is polished, or even particularly ready for significant NFL action.
Listening to Gruden, however, it doesn't sound like Dunbar will be back anytime soon.
"He'll get it back, eventually. I just don’t know when. I don’t think anybody can really tell when," the coach said. "He has just got to continue to do what he's got to do in there and see as many people he can and stay off of it I guess."
The entire injury has been weird. Nerve issues often recover at their own pace, and Dunbar's is fitting that bill. And even with all the medical attention available to Dunbar from the Redskins, the core problem still hasn't been exactly pinpointed.
"They kind of have it narrowed down to what it is and where it is. It’s just a matter of when he feels comfortable, where he can actually push off and run fast. I think he can run a little bit but when he tries to put a lot weight on it and push and extend his speed, that's where I think he has trouble. He loses function as far as power in his leg. It feels weak."
A cornerback needs speed. Dunbar needs speed. The Redskins need Dunbar.
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Dunbar will have his speed for the Eagles game on Monday night. In turn, don't expect the Redskins to have Dunbar on the field.
When will he be back? Jay Gruden got asked that exact question.
"I don't know."
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