Josh Norman’s injury will test Redskins’ depth at CB for first time
By Ian Cummings
The Redskins will be without their best cornerback for some time, and in that time, the young depth at cornerback will truly be tested for the first time.
Josh Norman suffered what was believed to be a minor rib injury on Monday night against the Chiefs. He did not return to the game, and after receiving an official diagnosis, we know that the injury is not as minor as it was previously believed to be. He won’t be out for long, but his injury will force younger players try and lock down receivers as well as he did.
The injury sustained appears to be a rib fracture, as well as minor lung damage for Norman. He’s expected to be out four weeks, but the bye week will allow him to miss less games for the Redskins and be back before the final stretch. However, his presence will be missed in that time. He’s been one of the best cornerbacks in the league this season, playing in coverage even better than he did in 2015 and 2016.
In the wake of Norman’s injury, the Redskins will be forced to turn to a younger, less proven core of cornerbacks. Bashaud Breeland will presumably take the mantle of No. 1 cornerback for now, but his tendency to draw unwanted penalties is alarming. Against tougher competition, will that problem get worse? Behind Breeland, Quinton Dunbar or Fabian Moreau will likely fill in on the other side. Moreau excelled in that role in college, but so far this year, we’ve seen him primarily in special teams. He’s been solid. But he hasn’t consistently logged coverage snaps at the professional level. Meanwhile, Dunbar is still making progress after transitioning from wide receiver. How he fares in the next three games will be telling of how far he’s come.
The presence of Kendall Fuller at slot cornerback offers a little bit of relief. The second-year pro has been playing at a very high level this year, and he provides a little bit of continuity in that slot. And behind him, the team will likely activate seventh round rookie Joshua Holsey for the first time this season. The young defensive back made the roster on the back of his incredible offseason play, but now he’ll be tested during the regular season, on an entirely different landscape.
In general, this position group is generally unproven aside from Norman. Breeland has played well before, but he struggles with consistency, and he’s been a yellow flag magnet lately. Kendall Fuller has seen massive improvement from last year to now, but he still has a ways to go, and after four games, it’s hard to assess whether he can keep it going. Dunbar can flash, but it remains to be seen whether he can be a consistent depth player. Moreau, as mentioned above, hasn’t played a lot of coverage snaps, and Holsey will be getting his first action as a pro.
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In Norman’s absence, this group’s tenacity, stamina, and resolve will be tested. Individually, they have all shown they can produce. But can they put it together without their star player? That remains to be seen.