Washington Football Team: Can Jimmy Moreland impress in year 3?

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 13: Jimmy Moreland #20 of the Washington Football Team returns an interception against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField on September 13, 2020 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 13: Jimmy Moreland #20 of the Washington Football Team returns an interception against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField on September 13, 2020 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

With roughly two months until the season kicks off, the Washington Football Team appears set at the top two spots at cornerback.

Seemingly any roster prediction article has returning star Kendall Fuller and recent free agent signing William Jackson III as the top two cornerbacks entering camp later this summer. Fuller is entering year two of his second stint with the Washington Football Team, while Jackson joins the burgundy and gold after four seasons in Cincinnati.

From there, the positional battle at cornerback is sure to be one of the most intriguing storylines on the defensive side of the ball entering camp. The Washington Football Team website has 10 players listed as corners, with three others listed as “DB.”

While there is surely a wealth of options at the position, it seems most likely that the #3 cornerback spot will come down to either rookie Benjamin St-Juste or third-year man Jimmy Moreland. With NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay writing that the third corner is likely to “play a lot in Jack Del Rio’s defense,” the decision between the pair could become more crucial than it appears.

St-Juste enters camp with considerable buzz. A third-rounder out of Minnesota, St-Juste has the somewhat-unique distinction of also being selected in the Canadian Football League draft. The pick for the Washington Football Team was called “surprising” at the time, with some believing that Washington had other positions of need that could have been filled at that pick.

Nevertheless, somewhere in the evaluation process the Washington Football Team found something they liked in St-Juste. He began his collegiate career in 2017 at Michigan, contributing on special teams and as a cornerback. He redshirted in 2018 due to a hamstring injury before transferring to Minnesota, where he would record 45 tackles in 2019 and earn Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2020.

St-Juste brings a lot of anticipation. But, if predictions were being made today, he would slot in behind Moreland on the depth chart.

Del Rio has already said that St-Juste will play cornerback, which tracks with his experience. However, in a crowded and talented group, St-Juste simply lacks experience. In addition, his 2020 stats, although respectable, show some regression from his 2019 peak. While he certainly has the tools to improve and become a reliable corner, Moreland is simply best in the short-term for a team that has playoff aspirations.

Jimmy Moreland entered the NFL in 2019 as the 227th overall pick. Thanks to some dazzling preseason plays that earned considerable buzz, he made the roster and earned fans along the way. In his first two seasons, Moreland has played in 30 games, totaling 86 tackles. His best season came last year, where he recorded his first career interception in a Week 1 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. Moreland also earned his first career half-sack, assisting on a sack against the Cincinnati Bengals in November.

Nicknamed “The People’s Corner,” Moreland excelled at the collegiate level. A star defender at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, he set school records in career interceptions (18) and pick-sixes (6). As a senior in 2018, Moreland was awarded the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year Award and was a finalist for the Bill Dudley Award, bestowed to the best collegiate player in Virginia. While these college accolades certainly do not guarantee pro success, it shows how Moreland has quickly made himself popular among Washington fans in the region.

At the end of the day though, popularity only gets you so far. Moreland has shown flashes in his limited playing time and clearly has the tools to excel at this level. With his rookie contract halfway complete, Moreland must continue to capitalize on these opportunities to secure a great second contract, whether that be in Washington or elsewhere. If performance is lacking, Washington has the depth to make depth chart changes and bring in a rookie like St-Juste for a little trial-by-fire.

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Moreland presents a great option for Washington at the position: A player with great potential and a couple of years of NFL experience that can come in and perform in crucial spots. Jimmy Moreland has all the tools to engineer a breakout season and rise above the crowded depth chart at cornerback to secure a significant role in the Washington Football Team’s defense. With head coach Ron Rivera previously expressing support for Moreland, it seems he has the inside track to earn that role.