The Redskins signed cornerback Quinton Dunbar to a contract extension after the season ended, a reward for his efforts as a strong role player in his three years in Washington.
Quinton Dunbar began 2018 in bittersweet fashion.
As he reflected on the team's loss the day before and the disappointment of a 7-9 season, Dunbar also had reason to smile. The third-year cornerback signed a multi-year contract extension, a reward for his efforts as a key role player throughout his tenure in Washington.
"It's a wonderful feeling coming into 2018, getting a contract extension and I'm ready to just get better and help the Redskins go over the top," Dunbar said.
It has been an unusual road for Dunbar, the University of Florida product that switched positions from wide receiver to cornerback in the midst of his first training camp with the Redskins. Each year, he's progressed and become a key backup on defense and integral part of special teams.
This past season, Dunbar recorded career highs in games played (15), starts (four), total tackles (28), solo tackles (24) and passes defensed (eight). In Week 7, he recorded the third interception of his career, picking off Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
Starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland will become a free agent this offseason, and if the team doesn't decide to re-sign him, Dunbar will likely have the opportunity to compete for a starting role at outside corner.
"I think Quinton Dunbar is an exciting, young prospect," head coach Jay Gruden said. "To only be playing cornerback for a couple years in his life and you see the progression he's made at such a rapid rate, I think to let him walk in free agency would be a mistake. I think the skill set that he has with his length and his speed is a rare combination and he's only going to get better. You can never have too many corners in your building, so whatever happens with Breeland happens, but I know that having another quality corner that can run and cover is a value."
Dunbar was leaned on during the middle of the season, when cornerback Josh Norman missed two games with a chest injury. Dunbar stepped in and performed admirably in his absence, especially down the stretch of the San Francisco 49ers game defending wide receiver Pierre Garçon. The biggest concern is his physical style of play which gets him into penalty trouble, something that will likely continue to be a bigger point of emphasis into next season.
"I never dwell on one play," Dunbar said. "Football is a game of runs, game of big plays, and you got to make your plays. You can't dwell on it. If you give up a play, you got to focus on the next play.
"I still got a lot to learn and to continue to get better with me only been playing the game three years, playing defensive back, but I'm only going to get better," Dunbar added. "Like I said, I'm a student of the game, I'm willing to learn from different people and I'm going to get better."
One of those people was defensive backs coach Torrian Gray, who the team added last offseason. Dunbar said Gray helped him tremendously, specifically watching film and breaking down opponents. The cornerback translated that into his 223 snaps on special teams, too, becoming a force on punt and kick returns with his speed and athleticism.
"When I go out there, I fear none," Dunbar said. "I like to go out there and compete and I feel like I'm one of the best players when I'm out there and I feel like that's the attitude you got to have playing this game, going against so many top athletes."
As for continuing the legacy of the No. 47 jersey, the one that previously belonged to Chris Cooley, Dunbar knows he has a certain responsibility for the years to come.
"Cooley is a great guy and was also a phenomenal player," Dunbar said. "I just hope to live up to that number that he did when he was a Redskin."