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For the Redskins cornerback unit, it's time for potential to turn into production

For the Redskins cornerback unit, it's time for potential to turn into production

The Redskins' cornerback group for the 2019 season is shaping up to be a solid mix of established veterans and a few young, but unproven players with potential.

It's no secret the cornerback position has been one of the weaker units for the Redskins in recent seasons. But in 2019, it could be a different story, depending on one key thing, according to NBC Sports Washington's Trevor Matich.

"It all depends on how the young guys do," Matich said. 

The veterans in the Redskins' cornerback group are all well established. 

"We know what we have in Josh Norman, one of the better corners in the league," Matich said. "They have experience in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They have Quinton Dunbar back from injury, and if he's fully healthy, he's one of the rising corners in the NFL."

Norman is locked in as one of the starting outside cornerbacks. If he's healthy, Dunbar will likely be the other starter opposite Norman. But after that is where things get tricky.

To address their depth at the position, the Redskins have prioritized the cornerback unit in recent drafts. Now, they must perform on the field.

"The Redskins have drafted several players at the position over the past couple years, and it's time for them to step up," Matich said.

In 2017, Washington used a third-round pick on Fabian Moreau. In each of the past two drafts, the Redskins invested a seventh-round pick in two cornerbacks: Greg Stroman in 2018 and Jimmy Moreland in 2019. Danny Johnson signed as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and was a contributor as a rookie as well.

"The first guy to look at is Fabian Moreau out of UCLA," Matich said on who the Redskins should look to step up in 2019. "He's a first-round talent, runs a 4.35 forty. But he dropped in the draft because he injured his pectoral [muscle] during the draft workout process. He's healthy now, and coaches have been talking about how well he's doing this offseason. The question then becomes, can he turn his progress into production on the field?"

Moreau is entering his third season with the Redskins, and they expect him to take the jump to the next step and establish himself as the No. 3 cornerback.

Due to injuries to the position, both Stroman and Johnson were given significant snaps as rookies a season ago.

Did they struggle some? Yes. But that doesn't mean they can't bounce back, especially with a year of NFL experience under their belt.

"Do [Stroman and Johnson] have the potential to rise up?" Matich said. "Yeah, they do."

This year's late-round defensive back is certainly in the mix for playing time as well. Jimmy Moreland was a star during offseason OTA's and minicamp, pulling down five (!!) interceptions in total, including three in one day.

Sure, there's a lot of uncertainty at the cornerback position. But if a few of the young guys can pull it together, this group has a lot of potential in 2019.

"If the young guys develop from unguided missiles who don't really know what's going on into productive players, then this could be for the first time in a long time, a solid, deep group of corners for the Redskins," Matich said.

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

The Justice Department charged Clinton Portis and nine other former NFL players with defrauding a health care program for retired players.

The news broke Thursday morning when the Eastern District of Kentucky alleged that the retired players submitted fraudulent claims for medical equipment costing between $40,000-50,000 to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. 

Former Redskins cornerback and first-round pick Carlos Rogers is also charged along with Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt. Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell are also expected to be charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Portis' attorney Mark Dycio said of the charges (via The Washington Post): "Clinton Portis had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement program was illegal. He is completely taken aback by this indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni."

According to the indictment, the claims filed between June 2017 and December 2018 totaled $3.9 million and the health care plan paid out more than $3.4 million.

Portis played seven years for the Redskins from 2004 to 2010, rushing for nearly 7,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. He remains a fan favorite and currently works for the Redskins Broadcast Network. 

A Redskins spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. 

Stay tuned as this is a developing story. 

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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.  

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