Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.
With the Washington Football Team just a few weeks removed from the season finale and a critical offseason on the horizon, it's time to turn the page to the 2022 campaign.
Over the past two weeks, washingtonfootball.com has been breaking down every position group and laying out who the team could potentially add via free agency and the draft. Here are the position groups covered so far:
Next up are the cornerbacks:
On the roster
Like the safety position, there were pain points throughout the season for Washington's cornerbacks. A secondary that finished second in passing yards allowed in 2020 wrapped up the 2021 season 29th with 255 yards allowed through the air per game.
And like several other positions, there are several factors that went into that. Injuries, COVID-19 protocols and new additions to the group prevented things from clicking at various points of the season. However, there were flashes that showed its potential.
That starts with Kendall Fuller, who finished with Pro Football Focus' fourth-highest overall grade (81.5) among corners. He also posted with the ninth-highest cover grade (78.7), and that was propped up by his 16 pass breakups, which was tied for sixth-most in the league. It was also one of Fuller's most successful seasons as a tackler. He finished with 77 stops, which was tied for ninth among all cornerbacks, and he had the second-best run defense grade for his position.
"I think Kendall's played solid, he really has," said head coach Ron Rivera. "If there's been a constant back there, he's been one of them. And it's been good to watch. Last year he started a little injured and as the year wore on, he played really well. That's what we're seeing again."
Lining up opposite Fuller was William Jackson III, who was brought in to use his ability in man coverage to lock down receivers. In that regard, Jackson had an uneven performance as he adjusted to Washington's defense, but he did have his moments. He was a solid tackler (36 of his 39 stops were solo) and his two interceptions were a career-high.
In October, defensive backs coach Chris Harris said that Jackson was still "a work in progress" but making improvements.
"It is a work in progress and it will continue to be a work in progress, not just for him, but for every single body that we have," Harris said. "For all the new players that we have, doing things the way that we do. Doing the techniques that we teach and so on and so forth. But he is coming along."
Speaking of new players, Benjamin St-Juste was brought in as a third-round pick from Minnesota to use his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame to be physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage. There were times when that worked out, but he only played in nine games before being placed on Injured Reserve with a concussion.
"Benjamin is still a young man," Rivera said. "That's in our plans and we believe he's got a bright future, and it's just a matter of opportunities coming up again because it'll happen."
Washington also had a few corners who had smaller contributions. Danny Johnson, for example, finished with 21 tackles to go with two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Darryl Roberts, one of the position's veteran players, added 12 tackles in six games. Corn Elder also appeared in five games and recorded five tackles.
Torry McTyer, who made splashes in training camp and in the preseason, was placed on Injured Reserve before the season began and is set to be a free agent in March. Washington also signed D.J. Hayden to a reserve/future contract.
Relive the highlights from each week of the Washington Football Team's 2021 season by scrolling through the top photos of the year. (Photos by Emilee Fails, Karlee Sell and Joseph Noyes/Washington Football Team
Cornerback is not necessarily a deep free agent class this year, although there are some decorated players available at the top of the market, one of the most notable being Stephon Gilmore. Other options include Joe Haden, Kyle Fuller and eight-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson. Check out the full list, HERE.
If Washington decides to go with cornerback with the 11th overall pick, it will have several talented prospects to choose from. One of the most intriguing is LSU's Derek Stingley Jr., who only played in three games during the 2021 season because of an injured foot. When he was on the field, he was a consensus All-American and led the SEC with six interceptions during his freshman season.
Other options include Andrew Booth Jr., Ahmad Gardner and Roger McCreary. Check out the full list of prospects, HERE.