The Washington Redskins are heading into 2020 with a perceived weakness at the cornerback position. Despite losing Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar this offseason, the Redskins failed to draft a cornerback for the first time since 2011. Washington did go out and sign Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby in free agency, but that doesn't necessarily make the cornerback position no longer a concern. The Redskins also signed Sean Davis and drafted Kamren Curl, but they appear to be better fits at safety.
Fabian Moreau and Fuller appear to be in line to start at cornerback, but there is one other corner who could end up making a major impact for the Redskins in 2020 -- at least Landon Collins thinks so. During a Zoom conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Collins revealed that he's a member of the Jimmy Moreland fan club, and believes that this upcoming year could be his breakout season, according to John Keim of ESPN.
Moreland was drafted in the seventh round last year by the Redskins out of James Madison University. The 5-foot-10 corner made a name for himself during his senior season at JMU, as he led the country in pick-sixes (three) and interception return yards (217). He finished as JMU's career leader for interceptions with 18, and interceptions returned for a touchdown with six. Collins said that Moreland could have had four pick-sixes during his rookie season last year, but he was inexperienced and didn't exactly trust himself yet. Now that he understands the system better and has a full season under his belt, Moreland might be ready to accept more responsibility in the secondary.
Moreland recorded just 41 total tackles and four passes defensed in his rookie season, but was actually the talk of OTAs last year. During a practice session last June, Moreland recorded a total of three interceptions in one day off of Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum.
"Jimmy Moreland had a hat trick, so he had three interceptions which I've never seen over my career actually in practice," said then-defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. "Just a smart football player who knows exactly what he's supposed to do, understands the game very well."
Moreland didn't exactly shine in his rookie year, but his first preseason performance had fans thinking he was Canton-bound. During the 30-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Moreland recorded six total tackles, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles -- both of them coming within five yards of the end zone.
While you may think Moreland is more of a ballhawk and someone who always looks to force turnovers, that's not true. During his rookie season, he proved on numerous occasions that he was eager to stop ball-carriers -- whether they be wide receivers or running backs. During the Redskins' Week 12 victory over the Detroit Lions, look at how quickly Moreland diagnoses this route Danny Amendola is going to run. He was able to get all the way across to the other side of the field before Amendola had a chance to do anything special.
Nice job by Jimmy Moreland catching up with Amendola as he sifts to the flat on a PA fake. Moreland had to work around lots of traffic and made up the ground. Helped by pressure causing a poor throw, but kept the gain to just 2 yards. pic.twitter.com/Qo8BoTnu4s— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) May 16, 2020
Two weeks later against the Green Bay Packers, Moreland showed the ability to quickly diagnose a run play, find the correct gap to hit and then make the tackle for a loss of yards.
In coverage, Moreland wasn't always dominant. He's so eager to make the big play that he sometimes likes to jump the route, and he also will fall for the double move, but he did prove he has nice recovery speed as well as those instincts to save a potential big play that he initially set up. In Week 15, JJ Arcega-Whiteside of the Philadelphia Eagles beat Moreland with a nice post route, but he was able to recover and stop the would-be touchdown.
You can argue that the Redskins have depth at the cornerback position entering this season, but they still don't have any elite talent. According to Keim, despite his size, the Redskins think Moreland is capable of battling with larger receivers like he did much of last year, and will allow him to compete for the right to start on the outside.
Moreland didn't have the dominant rookie campaign some here hoping for, but Collins may be onto something concerning his development. He took his lumps during his rookie season and showed that there is plenty of potential to work with. Moreland is willing to help in run support, a capable blitzer and a big play waiting to happen in the secondary. Keep your eye on this fan favorite entering 2020.