The Training Camp battle for the starting corner positions seems pretty simple at first with incumbent starters DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson returning for the 2013 season, but the cornerback battles are far from simple. Hall and Wilson were both a part of a defensive backs group that struggled early in the 2012 season. Every opposing receiver was burning these two like cheap matches early on in the season. The loss of Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker in Week 2 created gaping weaknesses in the Redskins pass rush, and Hall and Wilson paid for it. A lack of pass rush lead to opposing offenses passing at an absurdly high rate, and making life very hard for Hall and Wilson.
Hall recorded only four interceptions last season, while Wilson recorded two interceptions and three forced fumbles last season. The overall numbers do not look great, but these two showed flashes of brilliance last season. While Hall struggled early in the season, and was embarrassingly thrown out of a game in Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he played magnificently against the Dallas Cowboys in week 17 when he shut down Dez Bryant for most of the game. Two of Wilson’s forced fumbles came in crucial games against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11 and Dallas Cowboys in Week 12. These games were crucial to the Redskins winning the NFC east.
E. J. Biggers, who recorded two forced fumbles and one interception last season with Tampa Bay, is likely going to be the nickel corner. However, I don’t think his role will be limited to just passing down situations. Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett was very creative with his defensive packages last year. Haslett’s goal was to confuse opposing offenses with special blitzes and disguised formations to cause offensive mistakes. I know that sounds a bit redundant (I can almost see the condescending comment of "confusing offenses is every defensive coordinator’s goal, Sean" coming now), but Haslett’s schemes were far from conventional confusion tactics used by other defensive coordinators (to see the effectiveness of this strategy, see the Week 17 game against the Cowboys. Tony Romo was pressured and plenty confused during that game). I would expect more of the same defensive style this season, especially with the cornerbacks.
While Hall and Wilson could win the starting jobs during training camp, both of their contracts only run through the end of the this season. These contracts, combined with the possible reappearance of Haslett’s "confusion creating mistakes" style of defense, will likely lead to Biggers, Richard Crawford, and David Amerson seeing playing time during the 2013 campaign.
Crawford was really impressive in his appearances last season, coming up with an interception in the Week 17 win over the Cowboys. Crawford’s role with the Redskins will likely grow as he develops his cornerback skills.
Amerson, the Redskins second-round pick in this past draft, is a talented young player the Redskins will definitely want to develop. He will likely not be asked to start Week 1 of 2013 so that he can hone his craft behind Hall and Wilson. Crawford and Amerson will likely be the next guys up if any of the starters are injured. If Crawford and Amerson have a good training camp and preseason, they could force Haslett to give them some playing time during the regular season.
Chase Minnifield, who impressed the coaches and fans during the 2012 preason, has struggled with serious knee injuries in the past. While I like Minnifield as much as the next Redskins fan, his injury concerns will make it a real challenge for him to grab a roster spot in 2013. If the Redskins believe that Minnifield could be a contributor in future seasons, he will likely end up on the injured reserve list. Jerome Murphy, who has also struggled with injuries in the past, will compete for a roster spot and could be a good pickup for the Redskins if he stays healthy.
While Hall and Wilson had their issues in 2012, they are still likely the favorites to win the starting jobs for 2013 with the remaining corners competing for some snaps and as the nickel corner position. While I do not think anything crazy or shocking will happen in the 2013 cornerback competition, the 2014 training camp battle could be filled with intrigue if Hall and Wilson are no longer with the team.