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One of the biggest surprises from the Redskins' 2015 campaign came from sixth-round pick Kyshoen Jarrett, a safety from Virginia Tech that turned into a swiss army knife for a secondary that needed fixes at every position in nearly every week.
After a strong training camp, Jarrett picked up the defensive scheme quickly and played an integral part in the team's nickel defense, quickly progressing and earning a larger role in the defense. He finished with 63 tackles, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.
"He was a pleasant surprise," defensive backs coach Perry Fewell said on "Redskins Nation." "When he entered as a rookie and we stepped into the classroom and he was such a student of the game and the way his eyes lit up when you talked football to him, you knew he was something special."
The primary concern for Jarrett now is that he heals fully before the spring. After a punishing collision in the last regular season game in Dallas, Jarrett is still recovering from the shoulder injury that cut his season short. General manager Scot McCloughan said he anticipates him making a full recovery.
That finished off a season that had been filled with injuries in the secondary. It wasn't easy for Fewell, tasked with managing newcomers and teaching game plans each week.
"It was a head scratcher," Fewell said. "I think I really credit the defensive backs, some of the senior leadership in the defensive backfield, they're just sticking together, we studied together, we knew that we had to rely on each other and we just tried to make sure that we had our stuff in order. When I say 'our stuff', our coverages, what we felt like our strengths and weaknesses were with the players that we had that were practicing and playing at the time and I think a young man like Kyshoen Jarrett that you had mentioned earlier, he was one of the key factors because he could play multiple positions for us and he took the heat off a lot of people and that enabled us to really build around some of the young corners that came in a played for us."
One of those young corners, Quinton Dunbar, was a happy surprise after he was converted from wide receiver in the middle of training camp. Eventually the game started to slow down for him, and Dunbar ended up making a crucial interception against Eli Manning in the Redskins' home game against the Giants to demonstrate the progress he had made.
"Just to get him lined up in the right spot, you know, I credit coach Gruden because he came to us at camp and said, 'hey, this guy is tall, he's long, I think he can do a good job of getting his hands on the receivers, let's give him a look,'" Fewell said.
"So we took him over. First we had to get him in the stance and teach him how to pedal," he added. "As a matter of fact I was watching some film on him from the preseason and his pedal was not very good, but the thing about Quinton is he really worked at it and he listened to what you said and took what you said to heart and he worked every day at his craft. And if you have a player that has talent and has a skillset that works at his craft, he'll get better and better."
While the Redskins will attempt to determine what players should fill up a depleted secondary in the coming weeks, they at least know two young players already have the experience to make a major impact for them again in 2016.