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Chris Harris Explains Why He's Excited To Work With Washington's Cornerbacks


Here's one thing to know about Washington defensive backs coach Chris Harris: he loves letting his players compete for starting jobs.

Roster spots in the secondary will not be given out based on a player's stature, how big their contract is or their experience. With Harris, the only thing that matters is what happens on the field.

Holding an open competition is perhaps the best means of sorting out Washington's secondary, which will look significantly different compared to last year's group, particularly at the cornerback position. It's hard for Harris to envision how the mix of players will round out, but he knows all of them are athletic, versatile and eager to prove they deserve to be starters.

"There's going to be great competition because we have some really able bodies and some good football players here," Harris told reporters Aug. 1. "It's just trying to get ready to get back on the field so that we can get that competition going."

With neither of Washington's Day 1 starting corners from 2019 returning this year, the team made restructuring the position one of its top priorities in free agency. It started by bringing back Kendall Fuller just hours after the league year began. Fuller, who spent the last two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and helped them win Super Bowl LIV, spent his first two seasons with Washington and recorded four interceptions as a slot corner.

But Fuller's versatility has expanded greatly since his first stint in Washington. He became Kansas City's No. 1 corner in his first season with the team and recorded 82 tackles, 12 pass breakups and two interceptions. Fuller is confident in his ability regardless of where he plays, and having spent the offseason watching film on him, Harris agrees.

"When you get a guy like that, as versatile as he is, we're going to utilize him and put him in the best positions that we think will help our defense," Harris said. "We're going to utilize his strengths and put him where we best feel he can help this football team."

Fuller sees himself as a cornerback first. He prefers to play on the outside, but he loves that he has the ability to switch and play as a nickel when necessary. He just wants to play at a high level, so he's fine with doing whatever his coaches ask of him.

"I'm just excited to show my talent," Fuller said. "Being able to go out there and show that versatility, and just go out there and make plays, have fun."

Fuller joins a group of cornerbacks that largely consists of carryovers from last year, as five of the eight corners on the roster played defensive snaps for Washington in 2019. Fabian Moreau, who is entering his fourth season, is the clear standout among that group. He was second on the team in interceptions and led all the team's cornerbacks with 44 tackles.

Harris said the 6-foot, 204-pound Moreau has "really, really good size for the cornerback position." He also likes Moreau's speed and length, both of which will allow him to play the physical style that Washington wants out of its defensive backs.

"He has the versatility to go outside and go inside," Harris said. "One thing we're going to pride ourselves in is being flexible and being versatile in the back end."

Moreau's versatility will be useful because Harris said players will learn multiple positions, whether that be a corner being able to play nickel or a safety having to slide inside or play outside.

"One thing we want to do ourselves [defensive backs]. You're not a corner; you're not a safety; you're a DB, a defensive back. We'll learn and we'll put guys in the best position...going forward."

While Moreau stared seven games last season, Jimmy Moreland appeared in 14 contests with five starts. A seventh-round pick in 2019, Moreland had 41 tackles last year -- second only to Moreau among corners -- and four pass breakups.

Harris said Moreland can play at multiple positions as well, but the one thing that stuck out to him on film was Moreland's tough, "old-school" mentality.

"I think he is a tough individual, and I like tough football players. I've reiterated to those guys that the defense is only as tough as the defensive backs who come up and tackle. I am a firm believer in that," Harris said. "Your corners have to be able to tackle, and your team and your defense is only as tough as your corners tackling."

Although Moreland wasn't a consistent starter until the last quarter of the season, his teammates believe in his potential. Landon Collins -- the secondary's only Day 1 starter from last year -- said Moreland "was supposed to have seven picks last year" based solely on his athletic ability.

"I was like. 'Wow, he is going to be special,'" Collins said May 20. "I think he has the confidence now and the trust that he knows we trust him in his ability to do something, have his back and cover him."

For someone who has yet to see most of his players on the field, Harris is happy about the team's options at cornerback. All of them did a "tremendous job" during the offseason in terms of learning and retaining the new defensive schemes. Now, it's time for them to compete to be the new starters.

"I am all about competing for jobs," Harris said. "Everyone has to come in and compete to earn that starting role. Everyone will understand what that role is once we get here."