One of the most unpopular moves made by Ron Rivera’s Washington Football Team last year was the release of “the People’s Corner”, former JMU defensive back, Jimmy Moreland, who had been drafted by the Redskins in the 7th round of the 2019 draft, and who was active for 30 games in his first two seasons — one under Jay Gruden and the other under Riverboat Ron.
As a rookie, Moreland appeared in 14 games, but was placed on IR for the final two weeks of that season after suffering a foot injury. He played 471 snaps in 2019 — a ton of football for a 7th round rookie — with 354 of them (75%) at slot corner. It was a story that everybody loved — local kid drafted with the 227th pick in the draft has an instant impact on his NFL team. Jimmy earned an AV score of 2 from Pro Football Reference as a rookie, and PFF gave him an overall defensive score of 56.7, but a coverage score of 61.3.
From Hogs Haven, 2019:
(contains several film clips of JM making plays in the 2019 preseason)
Prior to the 2020 season, Ron Rivera seemed to be a big fan of Jimmy’s. Here’s a quote from an article published on Hogs Haven during the 2020 training camp:
Ron Rivera always raves about Jimmy Moreland’s personality in camp, and he says he’s just a fun guy to be around. He never gets mad unless he has a bad play. He watched a lot of film from last year, and picked out plays where he could have helped the team get out of bad situations. He’s not focusing on 2019, but wants to learn from it as the team moves forward to 2020.
In 2020, under defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, Moreland played in all 16 games for the WFT, and was on the field for an impressive 621 defensive snaps, with 518 (83%) coming at slot corner. His AV rose to 3 in his sophomore year, and PFF increased his overall defensive grade slightly to 57.6, though his coverage grade slipped to 55.7.
Soon after the end of training camp last year, however, the front office shocked most fans by releasing Jimmy Moreland with an injury settlement.
Consider this editorial comment on the move from Fansided, which was pretty typical of the overall fan reaction at the time:
[W]e were equally stunned by the release of Jimmy Moreland, who’s played 30 games (10 starts) for Washington over the last two years.
Somebody make it make sense, because Moreland is going to have a new NFL home before the end of the week.
[D]id the Football Team pull the plug on Moreland because of the injury? Or did the injury – which, again, is as minor as it gets — just give them extra incentive to make the move because they weren’t thrilled with his development?
The latter scenario is more feasible, but it still doesn’t justify the move. We know Kendall Fuller and William Jackson are locked in as the starters on the perimeter, with Benjamin St-Juste expected to play a significant role.
While we love that Ron Rivera is running a meritocracy, Moreland is a player who’s enjoyed success in Jack Del Rio’s defense. For starters, he logged an elite 72.4 run defense grade last season, per Pro Football Focus.
Moreland also played 518 snaps in the nickel corner position in 2020. Though Benjamin St-Juste looks to be an immediate impact player in the secondary, is he really ready to log significant snaps as a rookie? We hope so.
What about Troy Apke? He’s headed for a reduced role in 2021 after he started seven games a season ago. Was it really necessary to keep the fourth-year safety over Moreland, a cornerback with a ball-hawking knack who’s capable of lining up both in the slot and perimeter?
Maybe we’re overreacting, but if that’s the case, then so were hundreds of Washington fans on Twitter when they caught wind of the news.
As it turned out, Moreland was claimed off waivers by the Houston Texans after being cut by the Football Team, and spent the entire 2021 season under Houston’s defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, who is now the Texans’ head coach. Unfortunately for Moreland, Smith didn’t use him; the 3rd year cornerback saw the field for only 8 defensive snaps and 38 Special Teams snaps in ‘21 — a huge dropoff for a guy who got well over 1,000 snaps on defense in his first two years in the league. Now, the same coach — Lovie Smith — who didn’t want to use him in 2021 has released him prior to the start of 2022 OTAs.
With his release from the Texans on Friday, Moreland’s career appears to stand at a crossroads. After two pretty successful years in Washington, he has now been discarded by two consecutive coaching staffs in a 9-month period, and neither of those two teams were playoff contenders, which isn’t good.
If Moreland can join an NFL team and see 600 snaps this season at slot corner, he may be able to resurrect his flagging NFL career. If that doesn’t happen, however, the 26-year-old former 7th round pick could find himself suddenly at the end of his NFL career, or relegated to hanging on as a practice squad player for a season or two before the curtain finally falls on his NFL story.
Most Commanders fans seem to agree that the defense currently lacks depth at both linebacker and cornerback. The team has a couple of players like Fuller and McCain who can play the slot, and the coaching staff seems to be actively looking for a replacement for Landon Collins as the ‘Buffalo Nickel’, but Moreland, whether as the primary slot corner or backup, has the potential to improve the team’s depth with OTAs beginning on Monday.
Moreland may or may not be the best choice, but he would likely be a popular one for a fan base that is struggling to find reasons to support the franchise amidst a tsunami of off-the-field change and controversy combined with limited on-field success. Aside from the potential roster benefit of improving secondary depth, putting in a waiver claim for Moreland might offer a little bit of badly needed PR with the fans.
Also, the 4th year slot corner wouldn’t cost much — he made $850,000 with the Texans last season. The Commanders aren’t first in line on the waiver wire, so there’s no guarantee that the team can get him even if the coaches want him back, but there seems to be a fair chance that a waiver claim for Moreland would be successful.
So, what do you think?
Should Ron Rivera try to bring back a player that he released just 9 months ago, who was a fan favorite, but who earned middling grades from PFF for his 2 seasons in Washington and couldn’t get on the field with the 4-13 Texans in 2021? Do you think Rivera regrets the decision to waive him last September, or has Jimmy Moreland’s ship already sailed out of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay for good?