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Position Breakdown: Raising The Bar At Cornerback

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William Jackson III makes a call on defense during Washington's minicamp. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

We are days away from training camp, and there are plenty of new faces gracing the Washington Football Team's roster. So Washingtonfootball.com is breaking down each position as the team prepares for Year 2 of Ron Rivera's regime. Here are the positions we've covered so far:

Next we have the cornerbacks. Most of the group that helped create the second-best secondary against the pass is still on the roster. Kendall Fuller tied a career-high four interceptions in his first year back with the team. Jimmy Moreland had another strong season as a rotational player with 44 tackles as two quarterback hits, and Danny Johnson found value as a kick returner.

The group lost a pair of contributors in Ronald Darby, who started the entire season, and Fabian Moreau, but it gained one of the best man coverage players in William Jackson III -- seen by many as the best cornerback available in free agency. It then brought in more versatility by adding another established starter in Bobby McCain.

There are also several others, including third-round pick Benjamin St-Juste and veteran Darryl Roberts, all vying for a chance to help push the group even further.

ROSTER SUBTRACTIONS

  • Fabian Moreau
  • Ronald Darby

KEY ADDITIONS

Key Storylines

-- More man coverage?: Jackson brings a unique skillset to Washington's secondary. He has been one of the better man-to-man corners over the past four seasons, and that shows in the form of 41 pass breakups. That gives Rivera confidence that he can follow a team's No. 1 receiver on the field. From what Harris saw during OTAs and minicamp, Jackson has the ability to "shut down a side of the field." That disruption in the timing between quarterbacks and receivers could help limit big plays downfield -- one of the few areas of improvement for the group last year.

"I'm excited with my first looks at him," Harris said. "He's got really good size, really good length for the corner position and has really good feet."

-- The impact of depth: It's clear that Washington is happy with what it has at the top of the cornerback position, but it's also searching for players who can round the position and keep the secondary competitive when the starters are off the field. McCain has at least one interception in the last five seasons, and Roberts has been an established starter since 2016. The rest of the position also includes Moreland and Greg Stroman, both of whom showed they can have bright spots in Jack Del Rio's scheme. The amount of skillsets makes Harris pleased with the players at his disposal.

"The beautiful thing is we've got great competition, which is what I love," Harris said. "That is the way you get better as a team...by creating competition throughout the organization."

-- Getting up to speed: St-Juste made a strong case for himself in the offseason with some impressive pass breakups. His role is undetermined at this point, although he knows that he'll face better competition regardless of how much he plays. Fortunately, he's already familiar with some of the techniques Washington uses because they're similar to what he used in Minnesota. He still needs to adapt some parts of his game, but he's familiar with some of the techniques used in press coverage. The biggest things he's working on now are zone concepts and communicating with the rest of his teammates on the field.

"He pretty much understands where his leverages are and where he needs to put himself in terms of understanding where my help is," Rivera said. "That type of understanding and feel really gives you a chance to be successful because a lot of times guys will work on the same side of their leverage."

What To Watch

-- Raising expectations: Washington's secondary went from middle of the pack to second-best in the NFL over the span of about a year. In fact, it was only an average of 1.2 yards away from overtaking the Rams, which allowed a league-low 190.7 yards through the air. As Harris said, they set a high bar in the first of the team's new defensive scheme. Now the goal is to either meet or raise those expectations, and the new additions give them a solid chance of doing that.

"The bar is never going to lower," Harris said. "We've set a bar, and our guys understand what the bar is and we plan on raising the bar."

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