Roster Battles 2.0: Cornerbacks

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 18: Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears tries to make a catch as Josh Wilson #26 of the Washington Redskins defends during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 18, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The roster is really starting to take shape after some strong (and weak) performances throughout the first half of preseason. Concern and uncertainty lie among several positions, but the secondary has more than any other position on defense, so it bears examination. Big plays burned the Redskins during their 33-31 loss to the Bears, and that’s a phrase fans will get used to hearing if the front seven struggles to get consistent pressure. Accordingly, the cornerbacks turned-in a mixed bag of performances as a whole.

Like the other articles in this series, each player has a number next to his name to indicate his chances of making the final 53-man roster, with one being virtually impossible and 10 being a lock. Next to that number is the direction the momentum of the player is trending. Let’s take a look at where the cornerbacks stand now:

DeAngelo Hall (10): One of the reasons I liked the Cedric Griffin signing so much is not because of Griffin himself, but the implications that DeAngelo Hall would need to serve different roles. If anything, the signing of Griffin acknowledges Hall’s struggles at the perimeter and shows a little less naiveté among the coaching staff and front office as a result.

Hall is more than athletic enough to man the slot and cover over the top as a safety, which is where he was inserted for a few snaps during the preseason matchup versus the Bears. More needs to be seen from him in order to assess how well he can truly do in these positions, but liberal thinking from the coaching staff in this regard is encouraging.

Josh Wilson (10/UP): After stealing him in free agency a summer ago, Josh Wilson had a pretty average season while donning the burgundy and gold for the first time. I don’t see this happening again. Wilson is the best cover corner the Redskins have (for better or worse), and he’s backed that up with a solid preseason thus far. There’s always a learning curve for players entering new defensive schemes, and Wilson is a good enough player to thrive after getting his first full summer with the Redskins.

Cedric Griffin (7/DOWN): I’m not in full panic mode in regard to Griffin yet, but I’m definitely not as encouraged as I was when the Redskins made the decision to sign him a few months ago. He has the size and length to match up with the bigger receivers in the division, although he has struggled immensely this summer in both games and practices. There’s still time for Griffin to right the ship, and he’s going to be looked upon to assist the team in holding their own in a division with three very capable passers. This is not to say there isn’t cause for concern over what Griffin has shown recently, but getting burned by Brandon Marshall is far from a cut-worthy offense. Also, don’t count-out the idea of Griffin taking a few snaps at safety down the road.

Richard Crawford (6/UP): He continues to impress. Opposing quarterbacks have tested the seventh-round draft pick, but Crawford hasn’t given an inch to this point. His preseason debut was highlighted by a good adjustment to intercept a Tyler Thigpen pass, and followed that game with another sturdy performance versus the Bears. Crawford may have cemented a spot on the roster (if he hadn’t done so already) if he hadn’t dropped a would-be pick-six, but he still recognized and jumped the route beautifully. Every year I stress the importance of being able to evaluate talent in the later rounds of the draft, and so far the scouting department looks to have gotten it right with Crawford. At the beginning of camp, he was a long shot to make the final roster. Now, consider it an upset if he doesn't.

Kevin Barnes (6/PUSH): Barnes, like Hall, is another corner who is being asked to do different things this preseason. Barnes was almost exclusively assigned to the slot a season ago, but now is finding comfort on the outside. Despite his well-documented struggles over the years with the Redskins, he is winning a spot on the roster right now but that’s mostly by default.

BELOW THE CUTLINE

David Jones (4/DOWN): A vicious hit to break up a pass versus the Bills won’t be enough to mask his other shortcomings in coverage. Jones was already on the outside looking in, and a weak game versus the Bears is not going to improve his chances.

Morgan Trent (4/DOWN): A shoulder injury kept Morgan Trent out of the second preseason game, though it’s not something that will keep him out long term. However, it’s already a tight race to nab the fifth spot at corner, and being off the field only hurts Trent’s chances.

Brandyn Thompson (4/PUSH): After being nearly invisible thus far, Thompson came back onto the radar in Week 2 of the preseason for both the right and wrong reasons. He recovered what should have been a game-saving fumble late in the fourth quarter, but his poor kickoff coverage was a big reason for Lorenzo Booker’s 108-yard return for a touchdown. Like New York Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said on an episode of Hard Knocks, the three ways to ensure a roster spot for bubble players is "special teams, special teams and special teams." I really hope that is the first and last time I will ever have to quote Tannenbaum. Apologies for having to resort to that.

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