- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

ASHBURN — In black sweatpants, with a towel around his neck like a cornerman, Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall watched Tuesday’s practice from the sideline. On occasion, he chatted with fellow cornerback Bashaud Breeland. The brace around Breeland’s injured right knee was over the top of his pants.

Lined up at cornerback with the starting group were Chris Culliver and David Amerson, both of whom have missed practice time in training camp because of injuries. Behind them, the names became more distant and less easy to recall. Justin Rogers is the starting nickel cornerback in this situation. Tajh Hasson, DaMon Cromartie-Smith, Quinton Dunbar and three others were running on and off in different alignments.

When the Redskins‘ second preseason game kicks off Thursday against the Detroit Lions, Breeland will not play. Hall, who injured his toe, will try to. The Redskins will assess him in the hotel before the game. The rest are a mish-mashed group of rookies, journeyman and a former wide receiver.

Take Dunbar. The Redskins switched him from receiver to cornerback about two weeks ago in Richmond. They had thought about the move prior to injuries to Breeland and Hall — Breeland sprained the MCL in his right knee and will need two to four more weeks to heal — but those incidents pushed the decision through.

Since, the lanky Dunbar has been learning the most basic of tasks: Know where to be, understand when a defensive call is coming in, understand the responsibility on said call. Dunbar played some cornerback in high school, yet that is little aid here. That took place “years ago,” the 23-year-old pointed out, and the defensive dynamics from Booker T. Washington High School in Miami against those in the NFL are like addition versus advanced calculus.

The gap has sent Dunbar to the film room. He’s 6 foot 2, 201 pounds, walking in a frame comparable to that of Seattle Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who is about an inch taller and weighs nearly the same. Dunbar has begun to watch film of Sherman, a noted precision mechanic at corner.

“He’s very technically sound and it seems like he knows what the receiver’s going to run,” Dunbar said.

The experiment with Dunbar represents the dismantled depth at cornerback for the Redskins. It also shows a willingness for preseason tinkering. The two organizations that new general manager Scot McCloughan previously worked for, the San Francisco 49ers and the Seahawks, often flipped players to what would be considered a non-traditional position for them, though rarely would the change be so extreme that a player switches sides of the ball.

Dunbar, an undrafted free agent, has latched on to the move.

“It definitely never crossed my mind [before], but now that I’m over there, I want to stick to this position,” Dunbar said. “I don’t see myself going back to receiver. I like corner, and I want to work at corner for the rest of my career.”

As he experiments, Hall hopes. Training camp has not been a pleasant time for him thus far. After two offseason surgeries to repair a torn left Achilles tendon, Hall was put right back into the starting lineup opposite Culliver. He slipped early in training camp, which made his left groin and left knee sore. Then, Hall hurt a toe on his left foot at the end of camp down south. He needs snaps to prove to himself and coaches he can still be a competent corner in his 13th season following the first surgeries of his career.

“This is probably the first training camp I’ve actually came in and wanted to work,” Hall said earlier in the week. “A lot of times, I’m really just going through the motions and I don’t want to be out here, but yeah, I mean, we’ve got a new defense, new guys. You’ve got to try to learn those guys, learn the defense while coming back from an injury, so trying to make sure my body responds the way I want it to.”

“He wants to play really bad,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He knows he needs some reps here and there to get back in the flow.”

Time against the Lions will be beneficial for all the corners. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford was one of six quarterbacks to have more than 600 pass attempts last season. He has Calvin Johnson, arguably the best receiver in the league, and Golden Tate to throw to. Each cracked 1,000 receiving yards last season, despite Johnson missing three games. Tate finished sixth in the league with 99 receptions. Beyond their pass-catching talent, they are also different styles to cover. At 6 foot 5 and 236 pounds, Johnson has almost unmatchable size against cornerbacks. Tate is more squat and square, often able to pick up yards after a catch.

Gruden said he uses practice, plus the preseason games, for his evaluations. On Thursday, he will learn a lot about his jumbled cornerback spot.


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