Over the next few weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2015, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2016. Today, we’re taking a look at the cornerbacks.
2015 starters: Chris Culliver and DeAngelo Hall started Week 1; due to injuries, Will Blackmon and Bashaud Breeland finished the season as starters.
Backups: Kyshoen Jarrett, Quinton Dunbar, Cary Williams, Deshazor Everett, Dashaun Phillips and Jeremy Harris.
Free agents: Blackmon and Williams.
Rewind: The original plan seemed sound enough. Put a couple of proven vets, Culliver and Hall, at right and left corner and Breeland, an up-and-comer, in the slot.
But it didn’t work out as planned. Breeland got suspended for a game. Then Culliver got suspended for a game. Then David Amerson got cut. Then reserve Justin Rogers ended up on injured reserve. Then Hall went down. Then the unit suffered its biggest blow: Culliver was lost for the season to a knee injury in late November.
Every team goes through injuries and, occasionally, a suspension. But it all reached ridiculous proportions at times in 2015 for the Redskins’ secondary, which managed to get by thanks to the unlikely contributions of Blackmon, Jarrett and Dunbar as well as the efforts of their underappreciated position coach, Perry Fewell.
The group's stats, however, were decidedly less impressive than their survival skills. The Redskins allowed 30 passing touchdowns; only eight teams yielded more. They allowed an average of 258 passing yards per game, 25th most. The corners, meantime, accounted for only five of the team’s 11 interceptions, a total that ranked 21st (tied).
Considering the debilitating injuries and lack of continuity from week-to-week, the unit performed adequately. But more will be needed in 2016.
Breeland emerged as a quality starter in 2015 and Dunbar, a converted wide receiver, is raw but possesses a ton of potential. After that, there are a lot of questions.
Blackmon is a free agent. Ditto for Williams, who played all of eight snaps against the Packers. Both are 31 years old.
Hall has moved to safety, which is also Jarrett’s natural position. And Culliver is recovering from a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. He vowed on locker clear out day that he’ll be ready for Week 1 but that, of course, remains to be seen. It's also important to note that Culliver's one-game suspension triggered a clause in his contract that makes him vulnerable to being cut.
If defensive line ranks as the Redskins’ No. 1 need entering the offseason, cornerback can’t be far behind. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if GM Scot McCloughan decides to address the position in free agency and/or with an early pick in April’s draft.
Indeed, when everything is considered, it seems possible, if not likely, that the Redskins’ corps of corners could have a distinctly different look in 2016.
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