Film review: Paul Conner studies the rise of Redskins CB Quinton Dunbar

The receiver-turned-corner story stunned Redskins nation as Dunbar helped the secondary. That was especially true during Washington's playoff game.

The secondary of the Washington Redskins has already generated a ton of headlines. Josh Norman was obviously the cannonball in the free agency pool, but Washington's group of cornerbacks is more than just one man. The Redskins have emerging star Bashaud Breeland and rookie Kendall Fuller, who appears to be ahead of schedule in his knee injury rehab. Even Dashaun Phillips, a deep reserve last year, has been making noise recently.

One man who ended up with a huge role last year and is poised to add to it is Quinton Dunbar

Typically, when a team asks you to change positions, it doesn't bode well for your long-term outlook. Dunbar defied the odds after moving over from wideout and made the Redskins' 53-man roster last year. Not only did he make it, he played a significant amount of minutes and held up better than many imagined. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry will experiment with which cornerback combinations work best against each offense, but Dunbar should continue to see a lot of time on the field. He has earned it.

"Dunbar has had a great camp," Redskins coach Jay Gruden told media members, including Breaking Burgundy's Ben Standig, on Wednesday following the conclusion of the team's two-day minicamp. "He’s covering really well."

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Once a game is over, I'm usually chomping at the bit for the tape to come out. I refresh the page until I no longer get a "not available" prompt. That was true for every game last year except one: The Wild Card game versus the Green Bay Packers. I finally watched the game this week and it was as infuriating as I remember. There were many missed chances. What I didn't realize is Dunbar played a large role in that game. I decided to break down his performance and use it to wonder where he can go from here. 

1. Dunbar is playing off coverage against wide receiver James Jones, who runs a curl route near the first-down marker.

Covering a curl in off coverage isn't easy. You want to stay close enough to the receiver so that the quarterback doesn't have an open window to throw, but you also don't want to give up the deep ball. On top of that, the receiver is basically instructed not to break until the cornerback opens his hips. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is already releasing the ball and neither Jones nor Dunbar has come back to it.

Dunbar does an excellent job of breaking on the route, accelerating to the catch point and breaking up the pass.

This was Dunbar's post-play celebration, which I can only assume means "locked up."

2. Here's Dunbar on Jones again. This time, Dunbar is in a press technique. Jones is running a slant while the slot receiver is running a speed out.

Dunbar does a great job at the top of the route of not letting Jones push him away to create separation.

Dunbar is right in Jones' hip pocket, but this is just an example of Rodgers putting the ball low and away, where only his guy could get it. Dunbar almost takes Jones' head off.

3. Here's another curl route versus Jones. Dunbar is playing it from a press-man position. 

Dunbar doesn't allow any separation when Jones breaks on the route.

Once again, the pass falls incomplete. The Packers isolated Jones to give him a one-on-one matchup they expected him to win. It didn't happen.

4. However, it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows for Dunbar. On this play, he is matched up against Davante Adams on a sluggo (slant-and-go) route. Dunbar is again in a press position.

Dunbar breaks on the slant and lunges a bit on the double move. 

Dunbar does a great job with his physicality and recovery speed to not lose a step on the route.

Dunbar is in great position, but Adams uses his elbow to gain separation at the last second to haul in a big pass. 

5. This is part Dunbar, part communication with safety Dashon Goldson. There was a lot of communication between the two before this play. The Packers are running a high-low read to the bottom of the screen with a corner-flat concept. Technically, the Redskins are in a cover 3 defense, so Dunbar is responsible for his deep third of the field. That also means Goldson will flare out to the flat. Goldson is up on Adams in a press position. 

Dunbar keeps eyes on Adams after the press by Goldson, expecting that Adams is the one with the deep route. The concept of pattern-matching is taking over the NFL. It's based on the simple concept that offenses usually put one player in each zone and high-low reads are usually designed to complement each other. Meaning once a receiver enters a defender's zone, they usually pick that player up in man coverage.

Goldson goes beyond just pressing Adams and starts to trail him upfield. Once Dunbar sees that, he adjusts on the fly and attacks the flat route.

Once Adams breaks, Goldson just trails off and lets him go. Dunbar is now the one who looks out of position. However, if Dunbar was in position, this might be a touchdown to James Starks in the flat.

6. Here is Jones on a deep post route. Jones really tries to sell this as a fly route to get Dunbar out of position. Dunbar is in off coverage. The Redskins are in Cover 3.

Jones makes a hard outside step before cutting inside.

Dunbar stays over the top and is the only one in position to make the catch. Incomplete pass.

7. This one was frustrating. The Packers have three receivers bunched to the left on third and short. The Redskins are playing off coverage. The receiver at the top is going to motion out before he runs a speed out.

As the receiver starts motioning out, Dunbar is looking for guidance on what to do -- stay off of him or play up. All other secondary members don't hear him. 

The confusion assisted in an easy first down for the Packers late in the game when the Redskins really needed a stop.

8. This is Dunbar in press coverage against a fly route. Again, it's late in the game.

Dunbar does a good job of using his inside arm to control the receiver's inside shoulder and reducing his space to the sideline. 

Dunbar was a tad late in turning his head around. Both he and the receiver hand-checked the whole way up the sideline, but a questionable defensive pass interference was called, resulting in an automatic first down.

9. The Packers come out with a formation that messes with the Redskins' defense. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall and linebacker Will Compton do a late switch at the bottom of the screen. Dunbar somehow ends up on the inside slot receiver. The Packers need to reach the 37-yard line for a first down.

As soon as Dunbar sees the break on the slant route, he attacks. Rodgers is already letting it go.

Dunbar hits the receiver with authority and plants him short of the first down, forcing a punt. 

Dunbar made major strides in his first year with the Redskins. He exceeded all expectations on his journey from undrafted wide receiver to playoff cornerback. His ability to adapt and grow as a player at the next level should be lauded. His most impressive trait may be his mentality. It's not easy to just move over to the defensive side of the ball but by season's end, there was no doubt he belonged there. He has earned the trust of the coaching staff and should receive plenty of playing time to earn more.

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Paul Conner is the Film Analyst and Draft Evaluator at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr

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