Rookie cornerback Kendall Fuller hit the ground running for the Redskins once he finally made the active roster in Week 4. In his first NFL game, Fuller played more than 60 percent of the defensive snaps, and in eight games with Washington, Fuller has been on the field more than 70 percent of all defensive snaps.
His play early on was encouraging; a physical presence playing the slot and strong tackler in run support. Against the Bengals in London, Fuller had seven tackles.
Since the bye week, things haven't gone so well for Fuller.
Some of it was matchups - including a particularly difficult assignment in the Minnesota game against his high school teammate from Good Counsel (Md.) Stefon Diggs. In that game, Diggs had 13 catches for 164 yards, almost exclusively working out of the slot.
The following week Fuller struggled against the Packers, but things got worse against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Dallas slot WR Cole Beasley grabbed five catches for 56 yards, but in key spots, the Cowboys offense moved Dez Bryant into the slot to match up with Fuller.
The rookie had trouble against the Pro Bowl veteran, like many corners have, and despite some down games, Washington coach Jay Gruden still has a lot of faith in his third-round rookie CB.
"As a young football player, he’s growing. And he’s not going to be perfect, nor is anyone on our football team, but I like the ways he plays," Gruden said. "He plays with great effort. He’s a smart football player."
Fuller is a valuable piece of the Redskins secondary, and with more experience, he will become a bigger asset for Washington. Only a fool would suggest otherwise.
It will be interesting if defensive coordinator Joe Barry tweaks his defense to give other defensive backs some reps at the slot corner position against Arizona on Sunday. The Redskins have a variety of options, including moving Bashaud Breeland inside and playing Quinton Dunbar outside, or perhaps giving Greg Toler more opportunities.
Gruden's only advice is that Fuller continue to hone his craft, and considering the rookie's pedigree and work ethic, it should work.
"He has just got to continue to work on his technique and I think that’ll come with time. Whether it’s outside leverage, inside leverage, off technique, whatever it is, zone technique, all that stuff is just repetition, repetition, repetition. The more he gets, the better he is going to be."
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