Is cornerback depth the weak link for the Washington defense? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Plenty of observers expect the Washington Football Team’s defense to improve significantly this season. With new coaches and the addition of Chase Young, that should happen, but if it doesn’t, the secondary could be the weak link.
Washington's top cornerbacks have plenty of talent, and that list starts with Kendall Fuller. The team identified Fuller as a priority early in free agency and inked him to a four-year, $40 million deal in March.
Fuller can play and won a Super Bowl last year in Kansas City, and while it's early, the only concern for him is injuries. Fuller has missed most of the last week at practice.
"We’ve gotten a lot of reps with these veteran guys, especially the secondary guys. Not having Kendall be able to go full-speed, it’s one of those things if you constantly put him out there while he’s got a little nagging injury, the nagging injury won’t go away," Washington head coach Ron Rivera said last week.
So the team is just being cautious with Fuller, which makes sense in August. This week, however, real football starts.
Washington needs Fuller against Philadelphia, and the team will also need Ronald Darby.
A second-round pick in 2015, Darby has played some really good football in his career. He's also been injured a lot. His last three seasons in Philadelphia all included stints on the injured reserve list, and he's never played a full 16-game season in five years.
Darby and Fuller can play, make no mistake, but they need to be healthy to do it. Darby seems fully ready for Week 1 and this week will determine a lot for Fuller's availability.
After those two? Questions.
Jimmy Moreland looks like he could be a turnover machine. He has a nose for the ball and is one of the most likable players on the team. But he's still a seventh-round pick out of James Madison that isn't very big for an NFL corner.
On the other hand, Fabian Moreau has ideal size and speed for an NFL corner, but hasn't shown the same nose for the ball. Injuries have been an issue in the past too.
Then you've got Greg Stroman and Danny Johnson.
For two seasons Stroman and Johnson have lived on the fringes of the Washington roster, with some injuries and bad luck mixed in with some good play.
Stroman had a strong training camp and made a number of impressive interceptions. Rivera called Johnson "ascending" and said that's why he made the roster over veteran Aaron Colvin.
This group of corners isn't going to keep opposing play-callers awake at night.
That doesn't mean the group can't be good, especially if the Washington pass rush produces at an elite level. Better play from the safety position could help too.
Looking at the Washington defense though it's easy to wonder if cornerback is the weakest link. That can be proved false, and the first chance comes Sunday against the Eagles.