- With Washington releasing Orlando Scandrick, Dunbar’s transition is complete—from undrafted wide receiver to starting No. 2 cornerback opposite of Josh Norman. Plus, more on Alex Smith, Derrius Guice’s replacements and more.
WHERE: Richmond, Va.
WHEN: Monday, Aug. 13 - Tuesday, Aug.14
HOW: A five-hour drive from SI’s Charlotte bureau
Quinton Dunbar had just finished the final day of joint practices with the Jets when he decided congratulations were in order for … himself.
The former Florida Gators wide receiver went undrafted in 2015, made the team after changing positions to cornerback and, after Washington released veteran Orlando Scandrick on Tuesday, is now solidly the starting No. 2 cornerback opposite former All-Pro Josh Norman.
“I haven’t played DB probably since little leagues ... Probably here and there in high school,” Dunbar said Tuesday. “So for me to just switch over from wide receiver and guys in the National Football League who have been playing that position for a while, I mean hats off to me, you feel me? Because I put in the work and I put in the grind to learn a defense and get the cornerback mentality to get better each and every day.”
The biggest position battle going into training camp was decided with the transaction, which head coach Jay Gruden attributed to the young players stepping up during camp. And while the move to cut the former Cowboy cleared the way for Dunbar to take over the starting gig after getting just eight starts in 40 career appearances, it still came as a shock. Not only had Washington given Scandrick a $1 million signing bonus in the spring, but the move now leaves Washington with little age at the corner position.
“I was a little surprised by the move honestly for the simple fact that we do have all young guys in the room in the DB spot beside Norman,” Dunbar said.
Washington knows it has one side of the field locked up with Norman, whom I’ll have more on later this month. But the team feels good about the converted cornerback who was gotten a pick in each of his first three seasons at the position with limited playing time. (Fabien Moreau, a second-year player out of UCLA, will likely be the starting nickel corner.)
The goal this camp for Dunbar was to work on his technique, and surprisingly he said he’s been comfortable at the position since Year 1. Recall a time not too long ago when NFL teams were enamored with switching receivers to cornerbacks. It worked in college with Richard Sherman, and many other teams tried and (obviously) failed to replicate that success. The tail-end of that fad was around the 2015 season, when the 6' 2", 197-pound Dunbar came to Washington.
“I was rushed into action the last eight or nine games [of the 2015 season] and we went on a run and went to the playoffs against Green Bay, and I had a pretty solid year,” Dunbar said. “From that point on it was all about getting better, learning the defense. I always just wanted to play man, just go out there and compete against a man. But playing cornerback is bigger than playing a man. You’ve got to know your zones, know your concepts, the keys in the run game. That’s the only thing I really had to get better at.”
OH, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT: By now you’ve seen D.J. Swearinger get the best of Terrelle Pryor from Tuesday’s practice. After second-year safety Montae Nicholson broke up a pass intended for Pryor in one-on-ones, Swearinger let the former Washington receiver hear it on the sideline. He faked like he was going to swing on a helmeted Pryor, and Pryor flinched at a 90-degree angle. “Just let him know that he didn’t get the respect to go against the corner in one-on-ones. He went against safeties three days in a row,” Swearinger said of what he told Pryor. “I got him on day, [Deshazor Everett] got him one day and Montae got him one day. So we didn’t give him the respect to get a cornerback. We gave him safeties to go against. And we locked him up.”
STORYLINE TO WATCH: Alex Smith didn’t play in the first exhibition, and his playing time versus the Jets on Thursday is up in the air. But there’s no question that he’s had very little work with his top two targets. He and tight end Jordan Reed (toe) have tried to find some time on the sideline or in 7-on-7s. Third-year receiver Josh Doctson had a “great first chunk of camp” according to Smith before a heel injury sidelined him for part of camp. Evolving chemistry between the new Washington quarterback and his best pass-catchers will be essential for this offense starting well in 2018.
TOP POSITION BATTLE: Washington needs to find its starting running back now that favorite Derrius Guice is lost for the season with an ACL tear suffered in last week’s exhibition. Should Washington continue to look on its roster rather than outside the building, it’s going to be either Rob Kelley or Samaje Perine. Kelley appears to be the favorite here, but Perine put together a solid three days against the Jets and ran well last week against the Pats with seven rushes for 31 yards.
OFFBEAT OBSERVATION: Visiting the practice of a proud franchise like Washington will always reveal fans with jerseys of players spanning decades. Glancing through the crowds, I can’t say I saw one jersey that stood out in terms of plurality. But what’s cool to see is how many people haven’t forgotten the greatness of the late Sean Taylor, and you can see his No. 21 jersey dotted around the practice fields. When I left practice Monday afternoon and drove down Broad Street, I saw a husband and wife with their son—no older than four or five years old—wearing a youth-sized Taylor jersey. Good on the parents for teaching their son about one of the greats.
PARTING THOUGHTS: I’m usually against asking veterans typical training camp age questions. “How do you still do it at [insert age here]?” “When do you think you’ll slow down?” But I watched 34-year-old tight end Vernon Davis move like he was still a 49er this week. With age usually comes a different way of taking care of your body, and I wanted to know what that is for Davis. “I just think I’ve been consistent and diligent over time,” Davis says. “Since I walked into the NFL, I’ve always been cognizant of what I’ve put into my body. I didn’t really change anything. The only thing I changed maybe is… uhhh… nothing at all really.” Consistency has been the key for Davis, who has played in at least 14 games in a season in all but one of his 12 years in the league.
• Question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.