Friday, April 18, 2014
Re-examining Redskins' needs: Cornerback
By John Keim
In the fifth part of our re-examining series, I take a look at cornerback where the Redskins made a couple moves, though only one key addition. Already this week I've discussed safeties, the pass rush, receivers and the offensive line.
DeAngelo Hall is back for his seventh season in Washington.
Problem solved: Tough to say that considering it’s largely the same group that’s returning. But the corner play wasn’t nearly the same issue as safety. Porter is coming off a solid year and should be improved over Wilson in the slot in coverage. Amerson’s progression will be a big key here. Hall isn’t going to get better but if he duplicates last season they’d be happy; Biggers is fine as a fourth corner. They still could use one more corner to compete with Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford. Overall this group still has a lot to prove.
Projected starters: Hall and Amerson with Porter in the slot.
What must happen: Amerson must be able to handle a starting role after serving as the No. 3 corner during his rookie season. Amerson definitely improved throughout the year, cutting down on his mental lapses in coverage. He was better with his eyes throughout the play later in the year. He learned to play press coverage last season, which should be a good tactic for him because of his long arms. He needs to show consistency and prove he can handle consistently tougher assignments as a starter (though it’s not as if he only played lesser receivers; he did a good job vs. Denver’s Eric Decker, for example). Amerson will have to show he can handle run game duties, too.
Porter has to play at a comparable level to 2013 -- I know what some rankings say about him, but those who watched him every game and in practice called him the Raiders' most consistent corner. In the games I watched of him this offseason (Indianapolis, Denver and Dallas), he was solid. He showed good patience in the slot while facing receivers such as Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker and Miles Austin (and occasionally Eric Decker or even Dez Bryant, who was a mismatch inside against him). When Porter allowed bigger catches, it typically came off an excellent move and good throw because he still had tight coverage. He’s willing to play the run, but Wilson was stronger in this area. And Porter showed he could blitz from the slot. Porter’s previous seasons weren't that strong, which is why he’s on his fourth team in four years. Injuries have been an issue in his career; last season was his first playing 16 games and only his second of more than 12. So staying healthy is a big key. Hall needs to maintain the same level of intensity he showed in 2013 when facing many top receivers. He played well and was most effective in press coverage. Hall also turns 31 this season and he was not as consistent in other coverages.
Address in the draft: Sure, but not until the later rounds. It would be a waste to select a corner in the second round knowing they would serve as a No. 4 at best. It’s not like, say, outside linebacker where they’d be used in packages to bolster the pass rush. What if the corner is by far their best on the board? OK. But short of that, they can address the position later in the draft and try to develop the player. They need depth right now, not starters (you can debate the quality of them; but they’re invested and it’s not a need). Next year? Different story. Minnifield and Crawford still have something to prove; the former spent most of the year on the practice squad and the latter missed all season with multiple torn ligaments. It’s asking a lot to expect him to be at the same level he was entering camp last summer. When he entered camp he and the coaches felt good about how he had improved in the slot. The feisty Minnifield has to show he can be effective in more coverages than just press.
Last word: This group will definitely be helped by increased quarterback pressure. Too often last season the coverages didn’t seem to match the rush, for whatever reason. And when they’d play zone, that’s when they’d get into trouble. They’re not good enough to just play press man all day. Few corners are so they must be able to play a variety of coverages. But if you know the pressure will get home, then you can play tighter even in zones. If safety Ryan Clark has anything left, he’ll also help in two ways: making sure everyone is lined up right (sounds little, but it’s not) and providing trust that he’ll be where he’s supposed to, allowing the corners to play accordingly. It matters.