With free agency in the rearview and the NFL Draft fast approaching, the NBC Sports Washington Redskins crew examines the entire roster, position by position group. Today: Cornerbacks.
CBs: Kendall Fuller, Ronald Darby, Fabian Moreau, Jimmy Moreland, Greg Stroman, Danny Johnson, Simeon Thomas
2019 Recap: Like many positions on the Redskins defense, cornerback was a unit that was massively inconsistent throughout the 2019 season.
A year ago, the Burgundy and Gold's best player on the defensive side of the ball was cornerback Quinton Dunbar. The 27-year-old appeared in just 11 games but notched a career-high four interceptions and finished the 2019 season the No. 2 graded cornerback by Pro Football Focus, trailing only San Francisco 49ers' star Richard Sherman.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, Dunbar is no longer with the team. The cornerback grew unhappy with his contract in February -- which has just one year remaining and zero guaranteed money left -- and requested to be traded. Weeks later, Washington dealt the cornerback across the country to Seattle in exchange for a fifth-round pick.
Outside of Dunbar, cornerback was a position that struggled significantly in 2019.
Josh Norman, Washington's second-highest-paid defender in 2019, was so poor on coverage that interim head coach Bill Callahan benched him prior to the Redskins Week 12 clash with the Detroit Lions. Even as injuries in the secondary began to tally, Norman remained on the sideline for the remainder of the season, as the Redskins opted to play guys they signed just days prior over him. The veteran corner was released this offseason and has since signed with Buffalo.
The 2019 season was expected to be one where Fabian Moreau took a step forward. The third-year pro was putting together a solid training camp before suffering an ankle injury that cost him the first two games of the season. When Moreau returned, he struggled, especially in the slot. He moved to his natural outside position following Norman's benching, and immediately produced with two interceptions against Detroit.
One of the better storylines that surrounded the Redskins during last year's offseason was the emergence of seventh-round pick Jimmy Moreland. The James Madison alum made a name for himself during OTAs, intercepting three passes during one session. He backed up his solid offseason and training camp with a strong preseason, too. But once the regular season started, the rookie failed to make much of an impact when he was out on the field.
2020 Potential: The Redskins have had a lot of turnover at this position, but plenty of questions linger with this group.
After two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington reunited with cornerback Kendall Fuller this offseason on a four-year deal. Fuller primarily played the slot during his first tenure in Washington but was used in several different positions with the Chiefs, including spending time at safety, too.
Fuller returns to the nation's capital in a much larger role in Washington this time as the team's top cornerback. How well the 25-year-old lives up to that challenge will largely impact the overall success of this unit.
Besides Fuller, Washington added another starting-caliber cornerback in free agency in Ronald Darby. A second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2015, Darby excelled as a rookie and followed that up with a solid sophomore campaign. But injuries have derailed him over the past three seasons, leading him to sign a one-year, prove-it deal with Washington.
Moreau and Darby are expected to compete for the second outside cornerback position opposite Fuller. Moreau is entering the final year of his rookie deal and Darby is on a one-year contract, so both players should be motivated to win the job and put together their best season yet. Otherwise, their future not just with the Redskins -- but in the NFL -- could be in question.
The Redskins would also benefit from a sophomore jump from Moreland. The JMU product had a handful of flashes in 2019 where he showed his play-making ability and now has a full year in the NFL under his belt. With Fuller likely to play on the outside, it's Moreland's job to lose in the slot. But if he wants to take command of that position, he'll need to have a better second season than what he did as a rookie.
Washington could also add another piece to this unit during the draft. The Redskins have selected a cornerback in nine (!!!!) straight drafts, as the last time they avoided the position during the annual April event was in 2010. The Redskins have several holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but don't be surprised if they choose to add at least one defensive back this upcoming weekend.
Overall CB Projection: This unit has some talent, but there are a lot more questions than answers that surround this group. How will Fuller handle top cornerback duties? Will Darby be able to stay healthy? Will he even be effective when he is healthy? Will Moreau finally make the jump? Is Moreland capable of being a full-time starter in the slot? These are all questions the Redskins won't be able to answer until the season begins.
CB Grade: There's just way too much uncertainty surrounding this unit. If this group plays up to their potential, they could be a solid B, or maybe even a B+. But this grade is not based on potential; it's based on current reality. So for now, this unit can't be graded any higher than average, which would give them a C.
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