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Redskins position preview: Cornerback

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Redskins position preview: Cornerback

Over the past few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler have taken one more look the Redskins’ depth chart, position-by-position, as the team prepares to head to Richmond for training camp. Some battles figure to be straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until its finalized Sept. 5. So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …

Position: Cornerback.

On the roster: Chris Culliver, Bashaud Breeland, DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, Tevin Mitchel, Justin Rogers, Trey Wolfe and Tajh Hasson.

Likely to make the 53: Culliver, Breeland, Hall, Amerson and Mitchel.

Comment: The Redskins have kept five cornerbacks on the roster in recent seasons, and there’s no reason to believe that number is going to change.

In OTAs and minicamp, Culliver and Breeland were the starters at right and left corner, respectively. In nickel packages, Breeland usually covered the slot receiver while Amerson entered as the third corner. Amerson, of course, was a full-time starter last season. But a poor 2014 (he allowed 10 passing touchdowns, according to ProFootballFocus.com) combined with Culliver’s arrival has dropped him on the depth chart.

New defensive backs coach Perry Fewell, however, says he’s optimistic Amerson will rebound in his third season.

“It’s the confidence in what he’s doing,” Fewell said recently. “Experience is a great teacher for a young player. As he continues to grow within our system, he’s getting better every day. We helped him some of fundamentals also.”

Amerson will need to keep improving because once training camp begins later this month, the competition will heat up as Hall returns from injury and competes for a job. Hall’s health, in fact, will be one of the biggest questions in Richmond. Will the 31-year-old be on the field July 30 after being held out in OTAs? Will he be 100-percent? If he’s a half step slower, can he compensate for the loss with his veteran savvy? Obviously, the answer to those questions will have a major impact on the depth chart.

Battling for a job: Hall, Mitchel, Rogers, Wolfe and Hasson.

Comment: As I’ve already mentioned, Hall’s status will be determined in large part by his health. If the 12th year pro makes the cut along with Culliver, Breeland and Amerson, that will leave just one more spot available.

The common assumption is that Mitchel, a sixth round selection, is going to be the fifth corner. He had a good spring, but he’ll need to prove his worth on special teams. It’s also important to remember this: not all 10 draft picks are going to make the 53 out of camp.

Jay Gruden, however, says he’s been impressed by Mitchel.

“He’s doing some good things,” Gruden said after the final minicamp practice last month. “He’s learning a new system and he’s playing two or three different positions, so he’s been very impressive.”

If Hall and Mitchel make it, there won't be much wiggle room for anyone else. But know this: the others aren’t going to concede anything easily. Rogers is a fifth-year pro who played sparingly in three games last season. The Redskins are also curious enough about Wolfe that they’ve signed him twice. Hasson, meantime, opened some eyes by picking off two passes in a minicamp practice late last month.

For players like Rogers, Wolfe and Hasson, it’s going to come down to the numbers game. And, of course, who can help the most on special teams.

“Some of these guys that are second or third group rep guys, they really need to stand out on special teams,” Gruden said. “And then when they do get their opportunities on the [defense], take advantage of them.”

Redskins position previews 2015:

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Drafting a first round QB outside of the top two picks has largely backfired

Drafting a first round QB outside of the top two picks has largely backfired

Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes are two quarterbacks who were taken in the middle of the 2017 NFL Draft's first round, and they serve as two recent examples that you don't have to have a pick at the top of that round to land a star passer.

Problem is, they're basically the only recent examples, too.

In the past decade, teams who've tried to find their franchise signal-caller in the first round outside of either the first or second pick have failed time and time again. Since 2009, those prized QBs have mostly been selected No. 1 or No. 2 overall or mined beyond the first round. 

The following list, compiled by Redskins Talk co-host Mitch Tischler, shows how many mediocre to straight-up bad options franchises have found using picks 3-32:

  • Mark Sanchez — 2009 pick No. 5 — 37-36 career record
  • Josh Freeman — 2009 pick No. 17 — 25-36 career record
  • Tim Tebow — 2010 pick No. 25 — 8-6 career record
  • Jake Locker — 2011 pick No. 8 — 9-14 career record
  • Blaine Gabbert — 2011 pick No. 10 — 13-35 career record
  • Christian Ponder — 2011 pick No. 12 — 14-21-1 career record
  • Ryan Tannehill — 2012 pick No. 8 —42-46 career record
  • Brandon Weeden — 2012 pick No. 22 — 6-19 career record
  • EJ Manuel — 2013 pick No. 16 — 6-12 career record
  • Blake Bortles — 2014 pick No. 3 — 24-49 career record
  • Johnny Manziel — 2014 pick No. 22 — 2-6 career record
  • Paxton Lynch — 2016 pick No. 26 — 1-3 career record
  • Patrick Mahomes — 2017 pick No. 10 — 13-4 career record
  • Deshaun Watson — 2017 pick No. 12 — 14-8 career record
  • Sam Darnold — 2018 pick No. 3 — 4-9 career record
  • Josh Allen — 2018 pick No. 7 — 5-6 career record
  • Josh Rosen — 2018 pick No. 10 — 3-10 career record
  • Lamar Jackson — 2018 pick No. 32 — 6-1 career record
     

That list is one the Redskins — who own the 15th pick in the 2019 draft and who are beginning to be linked heavily to Kyler Murray — should pay close attention to.

The 2018 class is too young to judge, and as mentioned earlier, the 2017 class is providing quality returns. But none of the other names on that list have turned into anything useful, not to mention anything resembling special.

Of course, if you go back farther into the past, you'll find that QBs like Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers were snagged during the meat of the first round, so it's not impossible. However, the last 10 years have shown it can be very difficult to nail a pick in that range.

The logic feels simple: The truly elite talents, such as Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, are snatched up immediately. The QBs who are found in the mid- to late rounds, meanwhile, are given more time to develop and/or find themselves on rosters that have been built up more.

Those non-elite first-rounders, on the other hand, are generally caught in between: not skilled enough to help turn around a team singlehandedly but, because they're high investments, they're forced into those tough situations and end up floundering.

There's no doubt that the 'Skins need a new hope under center. Where they should commit to that hope, though, is something that must be considered.  

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Daron Payne's outstanding rookie season rewarded with first-team PFWA honors

Daron Payne's outstanding rookie season rewarded with first-team PFWA honors

After being selected as the No. 13 overall pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft to fortify Jim Tomsula's defensive front, Daron Payne transformed what was considered an overlooked front line the year prior, establishing one of the NFC's premier defensive units.

Payne joins Da'Shawn Hand of the Detroit Lions (Alabama), Bradley Chubb of the Denver Broncos (NC State), and Marcus Davenport of the New Orleans Saints (UTSA) on this year's list as the only four defensive linemen to achieve the honor.

In his first 16 games for Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky, Payne racked up 56 tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Payne is the first member of the Burgundy and Gold to be named to PFWA's annual list since Brandon Scherff was given the honor in 2016. 

Here's the entire PFWA All-Rookie team:

Offense

QB – Baker Mayfield, (CLE)
RB – Saquon Barkley, (NYG); Phillip Lindsay, (DEN)
WR – Calvin Ridley, (ATL); DJ Moore, (CAR)
TE – Chris Herndon, (NYJ)
C – Billy Price, (CIN)
G – Will Hernandez, (NYG); Quenton Nelson, (IND)
T – Mike McGlinchey, (SF); Braden Smith, (IND)

Defense

DL – Bradley Chubb, (DEN); Marcus Davenport, (NO); Da’Shawn Hand, (DET); Daron Payne, (WAS)
LB – Darius Leonard, (IND); Roquan Smith, (CHI); Leighton Vander Esch, (DAL)
CB – Jaire Alexander, (GB), Denzel Ward, (CLE)
S – Jessie Bates, (CIN); Derwin James, (LAC)

Special Teams

PK – Jason Sanders, (MIA)

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