After each ranking the Redskins' position groups on a list that went from worst to best, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will now spend the rest of the week and weekend delving deeper into every spot on the roster.
Next up is the one they think is the second-thinnest on the team: Cornerback.
Currently on the depth chart: Kendall Fuller, Ronald Darby, Fabian Moreau, Jimmy Moreland, Aaron Colvin, Danny Johnson, Greg Stroman, Simeon Thomas
Who's in charge?: Chris Harris (six years of NFL experience, most recently worked with the Chargers from 2016 to 2019 in a variety of roles)
Corner is going to look way different for the Redskins in 2020 compared to how it did in 2019. The question is: Will it also look better?
Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar are out. Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby are in. Fabian Moreau and Jimmy Moreland are still in the mix.
Yes, playing behind Washington's skilled crew of pass rushers should make this spot's job as a whole easier this year, but as Jack Del Rio recently pointed out, pressure and coverage must go hand-in-hand. It's the second part of that equation that still feels quite unsteady.
*Depth at offensive line is more important than any other position. That’s a fact and it’s really crushed the Redskins in recent seasons. After the O-line, however, a case can be made that cornerback depth is the most important on a football team. Think about it — more and more NFL offenses are running vertical passing attacks and putting at least three wide receivers on the field at a time and sometimes four. A defense needs corners to cover those wideouts, and lots of them. The Redskins did well to sign the versatile Kendall Fuller as a free agent, but their depth is quite suspect. Before we even have the Moreau/Darby debate, who will be the fifth corner on the roster? Aaron Colvin? What about the sixth corner? Greg Stroman? Washington would be one injury away from those guys taking the field in nickel and dime packages. Any defensive coordinator loves to have a true CB1, a real shutdown corner, but get some truth serum in the same D-coordinator and they might confess a preference for four or five reliable corners instead of one great one and a bunch of question marks.
*Now for the Moreau/Darby debate. Darby is better but has been unable to stay healthy for three straight seasons. Moreau had a rough 2019 but largely played out of position in the slot. Don’t expect Pro Bowl caliber play from either, but if Darby can stay healthy he has more upside. Both are in contract years, too.
*Jimmy Moreland is best suited to play slot corner. His size and playmaking ability make the most sense there. Fuller has been at his best playing slot corner, even though the money he got in free agency will dictate he plays outside at least part of the time. In the Redskins new base 4-3 defense, Fuller plays outside with the winner of the Darby/Moreau battle on the opposite side. When the Redskins go to their nickel and dime package, however, things will get interesting. Does Fuller stay outside and Moreland comes in? Does Fuller come inside and Moreau and Darby man the outside slots? That’s something to watch.
*JP had corner ranked ninth out of 10 while I had it slotted at eighth, so clearly, we're not expecting a ton. However, the corners themselves sure are, and that's because of Ron Rivera's presence. Both Fuller and Darby said in their introductory Zoom calls with the media (that still feels weird to write) that they've noticed how Rivera really gets a lot out of players at their position. That factor ended up influencing each of their decisions to come to Washington, and it's surely on the mind of others as well. Let's see if Rivera is able to keep that trend going with his new organization. Coaching won't be the lone reason for a turnaround (after all, Rivera isn't going to be the one covering Amari Cooper, though that would make for compelling TV), but it can certainly make a difference.
*There's a lot of discussion about where the Burgundy and Gold will use Fuller — he already admitted he wants to line up outside at times in addition to his work in the slot, in order to gain more respect — but to me, this is similar to the angst about what Antonio Gibson will do on the other side of the ball. My take on both conversations is this: The Redskins have a useful guy who'll make their unit better, and wherever he's taking snaps, he's going to contribute. Focus more on that rather than the ultra-specifics.
*Moreland's rookie experience was rocky at best, but his teammates saw some things that most didn't. Take what Landon Collins said last month, for example: "Jimmy was supposed to have seven picks last year. He just didn’t trust himself within his ability to do those things... I think he has the confidence now and the trust." While claiming a DB who posted zero interceptions should've actually finished with seven may be a stretch, Collins and others clearly believe in Moreland's ball-hawking skills. The seventh-rounder even put them on display all offseason and preseason, too, but once real football got going, established QBs really went after him. "The People's Corner" — a nickname given to Moreland by ESPN's John Keim — may have a little less hype around him as he heads into his second go-round due to those rookie issues, but maybe he shouldn't. Maybe he needed to go through those struggles and he's now ready to start balling.
*This could be my Ashburn Syndrome showing — for those unfamiliar, that's the term we've coined on the Redskins Talk podcast for when we think too highly of a Redskin simply because they're the only team we ever see closely, and therefore, we start to convince ourselves that their talent is better than what it is — but I'm excited about what Darby could do here. His tenure with the Eagles was rough, but before that, he was a second-round selection out of Florida State and an up-and-comer with the Bills. Now, he's back where he grew up, he'll be looking to show out on his one-year deal so he can resurrect his career and, as mentioned earlier, he'll be taking cues from Rivera. If the injuries, which are a legit concern, are held in check, watch for Darby to make plays.
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