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Fan Mailbag: Who Starts At Cornerback?


Wondering about a player's status? Trying to recall a past game? Want some insight on the Redskins?'s Gary Fitzgerald opens up the mailbag on Tuesday and answers fan questions.

Got a question? Email ***.*

Question: I'm confident that LaRon Landry, Chris Horton and Reed Doughty can secure the starting spots as Redskins safeties. But who will complement DeAngelo Hall as the starter at cornerback? I don't think Carlos Rogers and Fred Smoot are the answer. What about Kevin Barnes? Justin Tryon? Byron Westbrook? What about using the No. 4 pick in the draft on a cornerback?

-- Daman P.

Gary: The status of Rogers, last year's starter opposite Hall, depends on Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. If there is not a new agreement in place by March 5, then Rogers would be a restricted free agent. In that scenario, I would expect Rogers to return. He is still just 28 years old and his best football could be ahead of him. Don't forget that the Redskins had the top-ranked pass defense a good part of last season, and Rogers was a big part of that. Even though Rogers has struggled periodically, giving away a starting-caliber cornerback without something in return would be a mistake.

Given the uncertainty of the CBA and the likelihood of most unrestricted free agents becoming restricted, there are few options at cornerback in free agency. Houston's Dunta Robinson is the most intriguing potential free agent; he has 13 career interceptions in six seasons. And San Francisco's Dre Bly played for Mike Shanahan in Denver from 2006-08.

Redskins coaches are going to evaluate Barnes, a 2009 third-round draft pick, Tryon and Westbrook to determine if they are viable starters. Tryon, in particular, showed improvement last year. Of course, personnel officials are sure to look at NFL Draft prospects, although given needs at other positions it seems unlikely they would use their first-round pick on a cornerback.

Question: It seems like the 3-4 defense is becoming very popular among all NFL teams. It seems like every year there are more teams that switch to 3-4. How many teams actually switched to a 3-4 scheme in 2009, and how did they perform from a statistical standpoint?

-- Farzin M.

Gary: The team that immediately comes to mind is the 2009 Green Bay Packers, who switched to a 3-4 under defensive coordinator Dom Capers. The Packers had one of the league's best defenses last season--their 51-45 loss to Arizona in the playoffs notwithstanding--and were ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed, first in interceptions and 11th in sacks. A year earlier, in 2008, the Packers finished 20th in yards allowed, tied for third in interceptions and 25th in sacks. Clearly the Packers improved using a 3-4. Keep in mind that Green Bay has remade their defense in the last four years, using first-round draft picks on linebackers A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews and defensive tackles Justin Harrell and B.J. Raji.

Question: Hi Gary, all the fans are speculating what players and positions the Redskins are going to draft. The Redskins have always been aggressive in free agency and that directly impacts free agency. Is there a listing available of restricted and unrestricted free agents as it stands today?

-- Scott K.

Gary: Yes...And you can find it **right here**.

Question: Have the Redskins hired a strength and conditioning coach yet? Isn't this something that needs to get done before OTAs start?

-- Erik S.

Gary: Yes. Last week, the Redskins hired Ray Wright, who spent the last eight years as strength and conditioning coach with the Houston Texans. Wright is a familiar face at Redskins Park. He launched his NFL career with the club in 1997 as a scouting intern and was promoted to director of player programs in 1999. In Houston, he learned under Dan Riley, who was the Redskins strength and conditioning coach from 1982-99.

Question: Hey Gary, what has happened to Sherman Lewis? Has he gone to another NFL team? He was too good at play-calling with the West Coast offense to go back to Bingo calling!

-- Ennis D.

Gary: Lewis was not retained by Mike Shanahan. I would assume he has re-retired and returned to his home state of Michigan.

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