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Redskins 2017 roster battles: Which cornerback will cover the slot?

Redskins 2017 roster battles: Which cornerback will cover the slot?

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

Nickel cornerback

The contenders:

The Redskins never really got settled at what is essentially a starting position in a league where three- and four-wide receiver sets are the norm. Dashaun Phillips played the slot the first few games before a combination of a hamstring injury and ineffectiveness put him on the bench. Rookie third-round pick Kendall Fuller took over and it was hoped he would seize the job for a long time. But he got lit up with quarterbacks posting a 120 passer rating when throwing into his coverage, per Pro Football Focus. Fuller wound up being a healthy scratch late in the season. Veteran Greg Toler handled the slot down the stretch.

Toler was not re-signed. Phillips and Fuller are back but it is not just a two-man competition for the nickel corner spot. While Bashaud Breeland would rather stay at one of the outside spots in his contract year (outside corners get paid more than slot guys), they could put Quinton Dunbar or rookie Fabian Moreau outside in nickel situations and have Breeland slide inside. While rookie seventh-round pick Josh Holsey is a long shot to land the job but as long as the job remains unsettled he will get a look.

And the winner is . . .

Tandler: Last year was a year to forget for Fuller. He suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee that ended his final year at Virginia Tech after three games. The injury hampered him during the offseason program and in training camp. Fuller was inactive for the first three games in part because of the knee and in part because he wasn’t ready. He struggled mightily, as noted above. But with the third-round pick invested in him, I think he gets first crack at grabbing the nickel job this year. Many analysts had Fuller rated as a first-round talent before his injury. If he is fully healthy I think that he has a very good shot at taking the job and not giving it up.

Finlay: No surprise that Tandler picked his fellow Hokie Fuller to take over the nickel cover spot. Fuller is a better player than he showed last year, but he will have to prove that starting in minicamp. Coaches lost their faith in him, particularly when he got torched by Stef Diggs and the Vikings. A full NFL offseason and a healthy knee could make a big difference. One name I would throw in that Tandler didn't mention would be Will Blackmon. The veteran was forced to move to safety in 2016 because the Redskins lacked viable options, but with an offseason that added D.J. Swearinger via free agency and Montae Nicholson in the draft, not to mention moving Su'a Cravens full-time to safety and the expected healthy return of DeAngelo Hall, Blackmon might be able to move back to corner.  Playing primary nickel corner in the second half of the 2015 season, Blackmon made plays, logging two interceptions and three forced fumbles to go with eight broken up passes. Fuller might have the inside track, but I wouldn't count out the veteran Blackmon. There's also a scenario where Fabian Moreau could force his way onto the field, likely as an outside corner. If that happens, expect Breeland to bump inside. This would likely not happen until the midway point of the season at the earliest as Moreau is working back from injury and will need to learn the NFL game. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

 

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Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Here is what you need to know on Sunday, August 19, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

A year ago, there was tremendous concern about the Redskins’ rushing game. In their first two preseason games in 2017 when the games were the Redskins’ first-team offense against the other team’s starters on defense, Washington gained 13 yards on 13 carries. In the first halves of those games, which were played mostly with players on both sides who would end up making the roster the total was 21 attempts for 20 yards. 

At the time, the company line was to downplay the problems. 

“I’m just not worried,” said Trent Williams.

“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take plus-one, plus-two, negative-one, then you get a plus-eight. And things to pop. It’s attrition. Nothing’s going to happen just because you want it to.”

As we now know, the Redskins rushing game never really got going. Certainly, injuries to backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson and to the entire offensive line contributed heavily to their No. 27 ranking in rushing yards. But a look at the preseason could indicate that the building blocks for an effective rushing game just weren’t in place. 

Things are looking better this year. In two preseason games, the Redskins have rushed for 216 yards. In the first halves of the games, they have 31 attempts for 109 yards. That’s not a great average (3.5 yards per carry) but it is a vast improvement on the sub-one yard per carrying average they had through two games last year. 

Let’s not get carried away here. Preseason numbers aren’t rock-solid indicators by any stretch and even if they were we are looking at a small sample size. Still, the preseason stats are what we have to look at right now. We will see how things develop.  

Bureau of statistics

In 2017 the Redskins averaged 123 rushing yards per game in their first five games. In their last 11 games, they averaged 76 per game. 

On the record

Jay Gruden on the returns of RBs Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine from ankle injuries: "There are no reports really, we'll just wait and see. Every injury is different, and we'll play it by ear and see how long it takes . . . The injury report will come out Week 1 on - when is it, Wednesday? And there you have it."

Comment: Yes, this really was Gruden and not Bill Belichick. The whole organization has been tighter with injury information in general this year. We’re getting a lot of descriptions like “lower leg” rather than ankle or toe. If that’s the way they want to do business that’s fine but be advised as a fan that you are not going to get much information. 

The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:50; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 5 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 13 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 21 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

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Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler