Washington Redskins: Evaluating the Cornerback Situation in the Nation's Capital

Rohit BanerjeeCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2008

As of Monday, July, 28, 2008, the Washington Redskins have eight corner-backs of varying skill and ability on the training camp roster. They are:


Richardson, Matteral








Rogers, Carlos








Smoot, Fred





Mississippi State



Springs, Shawn





Ohio State



Torrence, Leigh








Tryon, Justin





Arizona State



Holt, Cedrick





North Carolina



Westbrook, Byron







Of these eight, only these three are guaranteed to make the final roster and start for the Redskins defense: Carlos Rogers (pictured above), Shawn Springs, and Fred Smoot.

Any good secondary owes its success to a defensive line that is able to generate pressure on the quarterback. With the addition of Jason Taylor to complement the underrated Andre Carter, opposing quarterbacks will have to release the ball much sooner greatly helping the corner-back corps.

Furthermore, LaRon Landry is well on his way to becoming and elite free safety after a stellar rookie campaign that was remniscent of the play of the late Sean Taylor. Taylor's replacement, Reed Doughty, with the added competition of newcomer Stuart Schweigert, has become a more-than-serviceable replacement at the strong safety position further reinforcing the secondary.

Rogers is a former first-round pick (2005 draft, 9th overall, Auburn) and heading into his fourth year should be one of the top-tier cornerbacks in the NFL. However, a season ending knee injury against the New England Patriots in the first quarter of Week 8 has kept him from participating in training camp. An interesting note - The Patriots ran up a 52-7 score in the game on the back of a 306 yard, 3 touchdown performance by Tom Brady. The lack of Rogers (and coincidentally, Smoot as well) played into this rather lopsided score as the 'Skins were forced to play with backup cornerbacks essentially the entire game. Following surgery to repair his torn knee ligament, Rogers is expected to miss all of training camp. He has been quoted as saying that he would like to be ready to go by the September 4 game against the division-rival Giants but most likely will begin the season on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) List.

Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot are the other starting cornerbacks who are expected to fully participate in training camp and be the starting duo at the position in the coming season, at least for the first few weeks. While the argument could be made that Springs is past his prime, he racked up 62 tackles and 4 interceptions last season. Digging a little deeper, however, one finds that his interceptions, all coming in the last 4 games, were against less than the best quarterback competition. Two came against the anemic Bears offense with Rex Grossman at the helm, and one apiece against Tarvaris Jackson (Vikings) and Tony Romo (Cowboys). Regarding the last interception against Romo, it should be noted that at this point the Cowboys had already locked up home-field advantage through the playoffs and he (Romo) only threw 14 passes in that final game.

Fred Smoot was bothered by hamstring issues all of last season causing him to miss the first two games and the aforementioned Patriots game in Week 8. He managed an average season with 50 tackles and 1 interception, the latter coming, once again, against the well-below average Vikings offense led by T. Jackson. He suffered an ankle sprain at the beginning of training camp but has continued to practice with the first-team defense.

Next is Justin Tryon, a rookie out of Arizona State (4th Round, 124 Overall). As listed above, Tryon is fairly short, even for a corner-back; However, word out of camp is that he has impressed with his speed and quick feet and has made a strong case to be the nickel corner-back from Day One for the Redskins. On a lighter note, Tryon seems to have a swagger about him that he is backing up on the field while mouthing off like the infamous Smoot. Should he emerge as even a solid 4th or 5th corner-back, he will be a great find for the Redskins and add depth to the position at a bargain price.

The more intriguing story, perhaps, is Leigh Torrence. Undrafted in 2005, Torrence played at Stanford and has decent size and speed. Early criticism of him included the fact that he seemed intimidated by the wide receivers he faced, often getting turned around and just plain beaten by speedier receivers. However, in this camp he has shown himself to be capable of covering a team's 4th or 5th wide receiver and maybe even playing the nickel back position in certain situations. The defensive coaches are apparently very happy about his work ethic which is crucial because, being an undrafted player, it is good to know he is doing whatever he can to get better and make the final roster of this Redskins team.

There is not a lot of information on Byron Westbrook (whose brother is a certain Brian Westbrook of Philadelphia), Cedrick Holt, and Matteral Richardson either in the Training camp reports, camp transcripts or from those who have watched and attended practice and are all considered long shots to make the team. Richardson is almost definitely going to be cut because he seems to be unable to cover even the third string, so-called "scrub" receivers. Westbrook has had a few decent plays against the second and third string offenses and the early read on him is that while he does not make huge mistakes, he is not instinctive enough to be a solid go-to guy at the position. Regardless, he should at least make the practice squad.

All in all, the prognosis is that this unit is unsettled at best and until Rogers returns, the cornerbacks are definitely the Achilles heel of this defense. However, while Rogers has missed all of training camp, the defense from years past has stayed virtually the same so he shouldn't be too behind when he is able to return. Assuming it takes two to three weeks (including the opener) for Rogers to be close to his old form, this unit needs to be careful as it faces some of the best passing attacks in the League (the Giants with the overnight stud Eli Manning, Saints with Drew Brees and new weapon Jeremy Shockey, and the Cardinals with the dual threat of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald) in the opening weeks. If they make it through this rocky period, there is no reason this group should not be one of the better units in the NFC.

If there are any mistakes or if anyone has any more information on how the cornerbacks are progressing, Carlos Rogers' injury report etc. Please let me know and I will add it on to this article.