- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) - At the outset of training camp for the Washington Redskins, Quinton Dunbar was an undrafted rookie wide receiver with little-to-no chance of making the roster.

These days, he’s a cornerback playing key minutes - and he owns an end-zone interception of Eli Manning, no less.

Back when the first practices of the preseason were unfolding, DeAngelo Hall was a cornerback, just as he had been throughout his 12-year NFL career. And now? He’s a starting safety.

When the regular season began, Will Blackmon was a man without a team, a free agent hoping for another chance. On Monday night, when the Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys, he’ll be a starting cornerback, probably helping cover Dez Bryant.

Mainly because of a series of injuries, the Redskins have been shuffling around their defensive backs, changing starters and shifting players’ positions. The team is coming off a strong-enough, three-interception showing in last weekend’s 20-14 victory over Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the New York Giants, who were shut out until the fourth quarter.

“It’s been a hard challenge, but at the same time, we’ve got guys who know football,” said Bashaud Breeland, Washington’s top cover corner now that big-money free-agent addition Chris Culliver is done for the season with torn knee ligaments. “It’s not easy to plug somebody in here and there, with the chemistry and whatnot, but we work at it.”

Washington has allowed just one quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards in a game - Manning, as it happens - and opponents are completing only 62.1 percent of their passes, which ranks 13th in the 32-team league.

The most surprising development has to be the 6-foot-2 Dunbar’s move from pass-catcher to pass-defender since arriving from the University of Florida.

Early in camp, he was put on special-teams duty and caught head coach Jay Gruden’s eye.

“He was like: ‘You ever played cornerback before?’ And I was like: ‘Nah. The last time I played it was in high school,’” Dunbar recalled Friday. “So the next day, we were doing 1-on-1s. He was like: ‘Hey, Dunbar, come get a rep at defensive back.’ And I did pretty well, so I guess they decided they wanted to make the switch.”

Was he OK with that?

“I was all for it,” said Dunbar, who dislocated his left index finger against New York last week but is hopeful of playing Monday. “I’m a competitor. If that was my shot to make the team - to play defense - I was going to go out there to give a full effort.”

At this point, Dunbar said, he has no interest in going back to offense.

“I’m in love with ‘DB’ right now,” he said. “I like ‘DB’ better.”

He credits teammates such as Hall, whose been making his own adjustments to a new spot, with offering pointers and easing his transition.

And the other members of the secondary are impressed by Dunbar’s progress.

“He showed me a lot. He’s getting better every day. He works at his craft,” Breeland said. “He improved on his football IQ. … He’s a great athlete. He can be a great corner, as well, with his physical attributes and his speed and his knowledge of being a receiver.”

There have been other adjustments.

Breeland and Blackmon both spent time at nickelback. Kyshoen Jarrett has played nickelback and safety. Trenton Robinson and Jeron Johnson have started at safety. Hall began the season at cornerback, missed time with a sprained toe, then came back as a safety.

“It makes it a lot easier for a coordinator to call defenses … when the defensive backs know exactly their zones and where they’re supposed to be,” Gruden said. “And I think we’re to a point now in the season where we feel good about the corners, we feel good about the safeties, we feel good about the nickel and all that stuff so we can be a little more diverse in what we do.”

Notes: LB Perry Riley Jr. needs surgery for a broken bone in his right foot and could miss the rest of the season. Gruden said Riley is expected to be sidelined three to six weeks; Washington has five regular-season games left. Mason Foster is expected to start in Riley’s place at middle linebacker against Dallas if Keenan Robinson can’t return from a lingering shoulder injury. … TE Derek Carrier (left ankle, Achilles) missed practice again; if he can’t play Monday, TE Je’Ron Hamm would make his NFL debut.

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Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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