In his first regular season start since signing a new multi-year contract with the Redskins, cornerback Quinton Dunbar knew he had a lot to prove. But for him, that was nothing new.
"I always step on that field like I've got something to prove," Dunbar said. "Growing up, my whole life I've had something to prove coming up in the environment I was in. I always have that mindset in everything I do."
Dunbar's proof was in his play, as he was a key part in the Redskins' 24-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Dunbar helped hold opposing quarterback Sam Bradford to 153 yards passing on 34 attempts, and his third quarter interception was the only turnover of the game.
Dunbar signed with Washington as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Florida, where he played wide receiver. At 6-foot-2, Dunbar's speed and ball skills made him an enticing option at cornerback. Four years later, his promise as a defensive back may be coming to fruition.
"I think [Quinton] Dunbar had an incredible game really. I think he was all over the place, he was tackling, he was breaking up passes, he got an interception, was physical in bump-and-run, was good in zone," head coach Jay Gruden said. "I think there are going to be things to clean up without a doubt, lineman assignment kind of things, but for the most part, I look for effort, tenacity, and an A-plus on both of those."
After impressing in training camp, he started at cornerback opposite from Josh Norman, which gave him the opportunity to line up against Cardinals wide out Larry Fitzgerald. On a pass intended for Fitzgerald, Dunbar broke on the ball, high-pointed it and knocked it out of his hands.
That play didn't go unnoticed as Fitzgerald found Dunbar after the game and congratulated him, a gesture that meant a lot to Dunbar.
"I was in middle school watching this guy play in the superbowl, catching a slant and going 60," Dunbar said. "A guy like that, a legend like, that to congratulate you means everything."
Norman noticed Dunbar's play as well and couldn't help but admire his partner's work.
"It's just amazing to see how he worked from training camp to this point," Norman said. "He was able to get one out of the air today, and almost took it back, but he was just amazing with his coverage all way around. And that's something to be said about his production and how he put the work into it. It's a big time for him."
Dunbar's payoff from the work he put into this offseason was apparent to starting safety DJ Swearinge Sr., too.
"He's just been grinding, man. You know, he's been working hard all offseason studying the game, he does a great job of dissecting the formations," Swearinger said. "I'm just glad to see his growth today."
The Redskins will hope for continued strong play from Dunbar as they face the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday for their home opener at FedExField. Helmed by quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts' passing attack will be another test for the young defensive back.
But Dunbar made it clear his play is just a part of the bigger picture, and that it takes more than just one player to muster a defensive performance like the Redskins did on Sunday.
"I don't too much focus on my own success," Dunbar said. "I'm a big team guy and I'm glad to just be out there with the guys, playing the game that I love to play."