- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2015

ASHBURN — Chris Culliver sustained a right knee injury in the Washington Redskins’ practice on Thursday, one day after the cornerback underwent an MRI exam on one of his shoulders.

Culliver missed Wednesday’s practice to get the exam and coach Jay Gruden said the Redskins were seeking a second opinion on the results. It appeared to be a positive sign that Culliver was participating in Thursday’s practice, but that changed once he jumped for a ball and landed on the knee.

He left Redskins Park with a brace on his right knee and was using crutches, though Gruden would not elaborate on the severity of the injury.

“Well, there’s always concern, you know?” Gruden said. “Until we get the MRI [results] and the doctor’s report, I don’t know. I don’t want to be overly negative. I don’t want to be overly positive. We just have to wait and see until we get the results.

Culliver missed games against the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of a left knee injury and returned against the New England Patriots.

“It would suck to lose him,” free safety Dashon Goldson said. “He’s one of our leaders, and a lot of guys look up to him around here. I think he’s concerned. He’s had to battle some things this year with the knee and a couple of injuries, so he’s been frustrated with that.”

The Redskins signed Culliver to a four-year, $32 million contract in March and has played in just six games this season. He was also suspended in Week 2 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, tying to an incident last year, when he played for the San Francisco 49ers.

If Culliver’s injury forces him to miss significant time, perhaps the lone silver lining is that rookie Kyshoen Jarrett and nine-year veteran Will Blackmon have helped buoy a secondary that has been awash with uncertainty for most of the season.

Jarrett has always been equipped with the mental capacity to play multiple positions in the secondary. It started at Virginia Tech, where he switched to free safety as a freshman despite being recruited as the No. 18 cornerback in the nation. It continued when defensive backs coach Torrian Gray routinely moved his players around in practice, just to keep them sharp.

Those practices with Gray gave Jarrett the confidence he could switch positions in the NFL, which was why he volunteered to play nickel cornerback in training camp after the Redskins drafted him in the sixth round.

“As a rookie, I heard the more you can do, the better,” Jarrett said. “So, I was always very open to that. Coming out of Virginia Tech, we had to learn how to be very versatile in the scheme so that helped me transition. My position coach would move me around, just so you make sure that when anybody else goes down in the game, my position can be moved during the game.”

Jarrett was pressed into action in Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The week before, cornerback DeAngelo Hall sprained a toe on his right foot, forcing him from the next five games and pushing second-year cornerback Bashaud Breeland outside. Though Culliver was hobbled by a left knee injury, he played the entire game against Philadelphia as Jarrett played the nickel.

When Culliver missed the next three games, Gruden relied on the trio of Breeland, Blackmon and Jarrett. Culliver finally returned in Week 9 against the Patriots, but Blackmon remained the other starter because Breeland was battling a hamstring injury.

When Hall finally returned in Week 10, Gruden was faced with the challenge of finding playing time for all five players. With Trenton Robinson struggling at strong safety, Gruden turned to Jeron Johnson and used Hall as a safety in dime packages. Last week, against the Carolina Panthers, Hall played just six snaps, while Gruden mixed Jarrett in at safety.

“Injuries have been our Achilles’ heel in the secondary,” Goldson said, “so when you have a secondary that can pop guys into different spots, it helps us out.”
For Gruden, it’s been hard to balance the playing time, but not as hard as it’s been on the secondary.

“The hardest part about it is the positions that they are playing and they’re changing,” Gruden said. “It’s one thing to play nickel and that’s your spot or play corner, play safety. A lot of people think it’s easy but it’s not. There’s a lot of things that go into playing defensive back in the NFL with all the formations, all the checks, all that stuff. It’s very difficult. That’s been the toughest thing for those guys.

“Fortunately, Blackmon has played a lot, D-Hall has played a lot. We have some veteran leadership. D-Gold has played a lot. We’ve got some veteran leadership back there that can help the process along.”

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