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Reviewing Jay Gruden’s comments for insight into the cornerback position battle following Scandrick’s release

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Let’s parse the head coach’s words in an effort to figure out who is impressing - and maybe who isn’t

NFL: Washington Redskins-Minicamp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the release of Orlando Scandrick brought a lot of clarity to the expected regular season depth chart at cornerback, but there probably isn’t room on the regular season roster to keep every young player that’s having a good training camp. To figure out exactly which CBs are most likely to still be on the team when they line up to play the Cardinals in September, we will examine Jay Gruden’s press conference comments from Tuesday.

General comments about the young CBs on the roster:

We drafted [Greg] Stroman and obviously we got Adonis [Alexander], and I think the emergence of Danny Johnson and Fabian Moreau at nickel. We wanted to get these guys reps at nickel and [Quinton] Dunbar at corner and move on. I’m very impressed with them all.

What am I taking away from this?

I get the sense that Gruden is talking about five guys who are all making the roster. We know that Josh Norman is gonna start on one side of the field.

Jay’s comments tell me that Dunbar will be starting on the other boundary.

He talks about the ‘emergence’ (a significant and positive word when Jay Gruden uses it) of Danny Johnson and Fabian Moreau at nickel. I don’t think there’s enough in this comment to say which player is behind the other on the depth chart, though the fact that Moreau is a 2nd year player from last year’s draft, and Johnson is an undrafted rookie may give some hint about the depth chart — at least for the start of the season.

He identifies the two Virginia Tech rookie DBs — Stroman (‘18 7th round pick used) and Adonis Alexander (‘19 6th round pick used) — as the other young studs; presumably, the backup boundary corners. Lest there’s any confusion about who’s ahead of whom there, Jay had comments about the player taken in the Supplemental Draft last month.

You know, obviously Adonis [Alexander] not as much because he just got here and he’s been hurt but he’s got the skill set that we’ve noticed, as far as your sixth corner, I think he’d be a very good guy to have in your building to develop.

That’s press conference gold right there... Jay specifically identified Alexander as the “sixth” corner, which means he sees five guys ahead of Adonis: Norman, Dunbar, Moreau, Johnson and Stroman. That’s pretty strong confirmation of the expected depth chart. Jay makes it clear that Alexander is not really going to be ready to play defensive snaps at the start of the season, which might open the door a crack for a seventh CB.

Jay, in the press conference, reiterated his praise for the rookies, but his slight change of wording helps identify who seems to be the leading slot corner, and then tosses in one more name:

Watching [Greg] Stroman and watching Danny Johnson compete and play, I’ve been impressed. Watching Fabian [Moreau] move inside, I’ve been very impressed. [Ranthony] Texada’s done a good job also.”

Jay, this time, focuses on Moreau as the “inside” player. I may be reading too much into this, but I’m thinking that Danny Johnson is showing up as a bit more of an all-purpose player who can backup the boundary or the slot, despite his small size (he’s listed at 5’9”, 181 pounds). Johnson ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the Combine, giving him the speed to work inside in nickle, and perhaps to run on the boundary with speedy deep-threat receivers as well. With Moreau (6’0”, 205 lbs) playing the slot most of the time, the Redskins will have the flexibility to mix up coverages by swapping playing both Moreau and Johnson in the slot to challenge offensive scheming, and to have Johnson available for boundary duty if needed.

Jay Gruden kinda throws Ranthony Texada’s name out there as an afterthought, and the adjective he uses is “good” (rather than something more glowing). Usually, this would make me think Texada was on his way to the practice squad, but there are two things that make me think that Texada still has a shot at the final 53.

The first reason is that Adonis Alexander probably won’t be up-to-speed to start the season, but almost certainly needs to be kept on the roster to protect him from being picked up on waivers without making it to the Redskins practice squad. That would leave a young CB group desperately thin. The coaches may opt for a 7th CB, at least to open the season.

The second reason for thinking Texada has a shot is that Jay mentioned him one more time:

Nobody could predict Danny [Johnson] and [Ranthony] Texada the way they played.

This time Jay is lumping Texada in with Johnson, and the praise is — by Jay’s press conference standards — fairly effusive. He said this in the context that the surprisingly good play by these rookies forced or allowed the coaches to cut Orlando Scandrick.

All of a sudden, I’m thinking that the coaching staff might start the season with 7 cornerbacks — especially since both Johnson and Stroman have punt return skills, which is significant for a Redskins coaching staff looking to improve special teams in general, and the punt return depth in particular.

What would the CB depth look like if all my thoughts turned into reality?

Keeping seven CBs would mean that the Redskins would have to make a cut somewhere else on the roster, and frankly, Texada would easily survive being waived and put onto the practice squad. But if the ‘Skins don’t think they can rely on Alexander to play early in the season, they may make the decision to hold onto the extra CB until the rookies get a bit of regular season experience and the coaches become confident about whom they can rely on.

Let’s look at a few more Jay Gruden comments:

Fabian Moreau

He’s a strong, physical kid. He can run. [Scandrick was cut because] we have to get [the young players] the reps you know. When somebody else is here and Fabian is not taking reps it’s not doing anybody any good. So, we have to see Fabian; Fabian has got to through it, learn it, make his mistakes, [and] we have to get them corrected. So when we play Arizona [Cardinals] we have great confidence that Fabian knows what to do and how to communicate in the leverages and techniques that we want him to play and I think he will be fine once that hits.”

I hear both excitement and concern in Jay Gruden’s voice here. He clearly is high on Moreau, but also doesn’t think Fabian’s ready for prime time... the player needs more work, more repetitions in practice, more snaps in the preseason.

Moreau is a second-year player, but because he was injured at the time he was drafted, he got limited preseason work last year, and played mostly special teams in 2017. He needs a heavy dose of seasoning if he’s gonna play a significant number of snaps on defense in 2018. Look for Fabian to be on the field a lot against the Jets and Broncos.

Danny Johnson

“[What’s impressive] is his competitive nature, his playmaking ability. You know, he’s been solid all the way around. You know, he’s a good tackler. So, you know, he’s done a great job. Everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done and very competitive kid, and he’s on special teams. He can help us there, which is the other part of it.”

What I’m hearing is that this UDFA has impressed in camp; he’s showing skills, but when Jay uses the word “competitive” like this, in combination with a phrase like “solid all the way round”, it’s a signal that Jay is hedging his praise slightly, especially when Jay goes on to emphasize the player’s special teams ability. Jay is signalling that the coaches like Danny Johnson, but he clearly a backup — not competing for a starting role.

Possibilities

So, you know, we still have time if it doesn’t work out or if somebody gets injured, we still have time to make moves also ourselves.... We’re going to go with what we have right now, we’ll probably sign another one maybe here shortly but right now we like what we have.

Jay lacks guile, so he sometimes struggles when he prevaricates. In a single sentence, he talks about two different scenarios:

i. We’ll go with what we have — right now

ii. We’ll probably sign another CB — shortly

And — oh, by the way — if we need to, we have time to make a move.

I’m hearing Jay say that he wants very much to believe that Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau and 3 or 4 rookies will be able to handle the cornerback position — but Jay isn’t really sure.

He’s keeping all his options open. We’re gonna stand pat. For now. But we will probably bring someone else in. Shortly. But we like what we have. But if it doen’t work out, we can still make changes.

I suspect they have DRC on speed dial.

No matter how much ‘confidence’ Jay expressed in these players on Tuesday, I think the thought of relying on 3 or more rookies to fill out the cornerback depth chart is keeping Jay awake at night.

Josh Holsey

We got Holsey coming back after week eight, whatever it is, so we have him, as well. It looks that that way [like he’ll start the season on PUP].

The Redskins seem to be going out of their way not to give any details on Holsey or make any comments that commit to a course of action with him. It’s preseason, so the Redskins aren’t required to disclose injury details (note how bothered Todd Bowles was this week that Terrelle Pryor talked to the press about breaking his ankle).

It sounds like Holsey may be out there and available in the second half of the season if needed, the same way that I have a packet of fairy dust that can get me out of trouble if I really need it.

I’ll be surprised if Holsey sees an NFL field in 2018 regular season or playoffs.

Poll

How many cornerbacks will be on the Redskins 53-man roster in Week 1?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    6
    (343 votes)
  • 25%
    7
    (115 votes)
458 votes total Vote Now

Poll

What was the main reason that the Redskins released Scandrick?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Scandrick was unhappy
    (9 votes)
  • 6%
    The Redskins were unhappy with Scandrick’s play on the field
    (34 votes)
  • 18%
    The Redskins didn’t like Scandrick’s ‘attitude’ off the field / in the locker room
    (99 votes)
  • 37%
    The Redskins thought that the younger players in camp outplayed him
    (204 votes)
  • 1%
    The Redskins wanted the cap space
    (9 votes)
  • 34%
    The Redskins wanted room on the roster for a player (probably Adonis Alexander) that they didn’t want to risk losing to another team
    (185 votes)
540 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will Joshua Holsey ever play another down of regular season football in the NFL?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Yes
    (337 votes)
  • 25%
    No
    (118 votes)
455 votes total Vote Now