Get past Redskins headliners Kirk Cousins, DeSean Jackson and Josh Norman and focus shifts to training camp battles existing on both sides of the ball. Breaking Burgundy film analyst Paul Conner is spending the first week at training camp. His analysis of these battles based on live observations and long-standing insight of the Burgundy and Gold.
The battle: Slot cornerback
When we last left: The cornerback position was all over the place in 2015. The combination of DeAngelo Hall, Bashaud Breeland, and Chris Culliver looked like one of the more talented groups on paper. Breeland ended up being suspended for the opener and Culliver sanctioned for the next. He eventually suffered a season-ending injury while Hall moved to safety. This shuffling of the deck put stress on the slot cornerback position as well.
Efforts from free agent pickup Will Blackmon and wide receiver-turned-Cornerback Quinton Dunbar helped alleviate some. Sixth round pick Kyshoen Jarrett eventually stepped up and impressed in the slot, before suffering nerve damage in his shoulder. That injury cost him a spot on the 2016 roster, leading Washington to find a replacement. With all the sub-packages taking over the NFL, the slot position is basically a starting position and vital to a team's defense.
The battle: For the first few days of camp, Phillips spent most of his time on the first team field and lined up as the first team slot cornerback. Coaches seemed excited about working with him in comments during Organized Team Activities (OTA) and that seemed to pay off. He was one of the few bodies the team brought over to rotate in with the starters. Head coach Jay Gruden even mentioned him in one of his press conferences. Meanwhile Fuller was regulated to the reserves field, getting his feet wet after coming back from microfracture knee surgery that ended his final season at Virginia Tech.
The role reversal came a few days into camp as Fuller worked with the starters and Phillips headed over to the second field. No word yet if this is a changing of the guard or they're looking to evaluate Fuller in the same setting they got to see Phillips.
Hall on Fuller: "I see a good football player, a kid who was a first-round talent. ...He just gives us a lot of versatility. He’s cut from the same as cloth as Kyshoen Jarrett. Man, those guys are football players. They understand football. They came into this league understanding football. Any time you get a guy who understands football and not just knows how to play a position, they can be real viable into a football team. He’s playing at nickel, which I think is one of the hardest positions to come in and play at right away."
Likely verdict: Phillips may start the year based on experience, but it may not last long. If Fuller is healthy, I'd imagine the team would want him to win the job. Both have looked relatively good in coverage. Fuller has given up some passes, but he's always in the area. A few corrections in his technique could solidify his status. Hall's praise of Fuller, specifically the cut same cloth as Jarrett angle, is worth noting. Basically, he knows football. For Redskins fans who followed Jarrett's rise last year, this is a great compliment.
More camp battles
Paul Conner is the Film Analyst and Draft Evaluator at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr
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