With a plethora of injuries plaguing the Redskins' secondary, three free agent signings are trying their best to quickly learn their roles and make an impression in the process.
Like any coach on a new team, Perry Fewell spent the last several months studying and interacting with the Redskins' roster, enhancing strengths, eliminating weaknesses, acquainting himself with the group of cornerbacks and safeties that he would be leading this season.
The Washington Redskins on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, announced the signings of cornerbacks Bryan McCann and DreQuan Hoskey.
But just a week into training camp in Richmond, Va., Bashaud Breeland injured his MCL, DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver tweaked their groins, David Amerson banged his shoulder and Jeron Johnson pulled his hamstring.
"We almost have to start back over again," Fewell said.
Injuries are a regular part of football, and sometimes teams catch "the bug," as head coach Jay Gruden lamented earlier this week. And while most of these setbacks are not too serious, their frequency and overlap have forced the Redskins to bring in other, younger options.
Some of these players already exist on the team (wide receiver Quinton Dunbar is already turning some heads at a new position), but three new additions at corner – Deshazor Everett, Bryan McCann and DreQuan Hoskey – have entered the fold, eager to make the most of a rare opportunity in early August.
"It's definitely been a lot of change," Everett said. "I'm just doing my best to adjust. Coaches are really helping me out on the fly."
For Fewell, the challenge is teaching terminologies and the team's language, instructing new players when he can about the philosophies of the defense and making sure they're on the same page with the other veterans. That means meeting individually with each new addition, learning about what schemes they learned in college and if they're familiar with a certain vocabulary.
"I try to figure out their techniques," Fewell said. "Are you a press man? An off-man? How many zones have you played? And then, try to gather all that information to put in our terminology to make it easier for the players."
Everett, an undrafted cornerback from Texas A&M, was recently cut from the Buccaneers, but agrees memorizing terminologies is the hardest part. Fewell, he said, has encouraged him to keep his head in the playbook, but hasn't forced him to know it all right away.
"In my free time I've got to make sure I'm doing extra because I'm behind these guys," Everett said. "If I want to make this team I've got to know what I'm doing."
"Everybody has their own blitzes, everybody has their man to man, and everybody has a prevent defense," McCann said. "It's just a matter of learning the terminology and applying it."
The Washington Redskins conducted their ninth day of training camp practice Saturday, August 8, 2015, at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
McCann, a four-year veteran who has bounced around with the Ravens, Cowboys, Raiders, Dolphins and Cardinals, is used to adjusting to different styles. With that experience comes recognition of the constants in this daily catchup, namely listening.
"You've got to absorb everything," McCann said. "I've been in a position where I've played every position in the secondary. And so I'm doing my best to soak up whatever I can from the playbook but also from the coaches. Anytime I see a player get pulled to the side and he's getting a little extra coaching, I'm over there trying to listen a little bit so I can pick up as much as I can as fast as possible."
Speed and pressure are not an issue for DreQuan Hoskey, the Richmond native that went undrafted from the University of Virginia this spring and was unsigned by the Redskins shortly after attending the team's rookie minicamp in May.
Between then and a few days ago, Hoskey was training to become a NASCAR gunner for Team Penske in Charlotte, N.C., changing rear tires in the pit crew. He was ready to commit to the job until he got the call to head to Richmond.
"It's definitely an adrenaline rush and the cars are coming in fast and you've got to adjust quickly," Hoskey said. "It's just like football. So that's why I can relate to it. It feels good to be back home."
Hoskey may have a slight advantage over his other counterparts considering he was familiar with Fewell and defensive coordinator Joe Barry, if only for a few days. Regardless of the new players' diverse backgrounds, each of them is still catching up to the speed and physicality of the NFL, adjusting to being thrown into the gauntlet without much preparation.
"They're willing people. They're fast learners," said Fewell, hoping he can prepare them for the team's first preseason game in Cleveland Thursday night. "Obviously, they're not in the greatest shape. They're in good shape. And then the speed of the game for them, playing on an NFL roster and going against these skilled receivers, those are the challenges they present. And they've been stepping up."
"First day, I'm here in 1-on-1s. I'm like I just can't back up, I've got to go face the challenge," Everett said. "I went against [DeSean Jackson]. The crowd was like, 'You're going to press DeSean?' [I'm] like, 'Hey I got to go out there and play my game.' They're good players. All they do is help me step my game up. If I'm not ready I'm going to get exposed."
And that fear, undoubtedly infused with some excitement, makes each of these cornerbacks just a little more focused, more attentive and more open to change.
They realize an opportunity like this – to play on the defense, to get reps at special teams – is rare and may be limited to a few weeks, or even a few days. In the meantime, they'll continue to study their playbook, ask veterans for advice and try to cherish another day in the NFL.
"It's a man's game," Everett said. "You can't go out there playing soft, you've got to go out there and play hard every play. I'm blessed with an opportunity and I've got to make the most of it."