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Without Two Starting Cornerbacks, Redskins Will Rely On Kendall Fuller And Greg Toler


With several injuries depleting the Redskins secondary, the team will rely on cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Greg Toler to fill the void.

The Redskins relied on the versatility and depth of their secondary in their 29-27 victory over the Giants, after cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Dashaun Phillips and safety DeAngelo Hall all left with injuries.

Hall was placed on Injured Reserve, while Breeland and Phillips haven't participated in practice this week, meaning that cornerback Greg Toler, who played 43 snaps against New York, and rookie Kendall Fuller, who has been inactive for the first three weeks of the season, will receive the bulk of playing time vs. the Browns on Sunday.

The changes that occurred on the fly during Sunday's win didn't provide a major decrease in production thanks to a "next man up" mentality that has given the coaching staff confidence with whomever comes off the bench.

"That's the one thing that when one goes down, there's not a huge drop-off," safety Will Blackmon said.

In Sunday's case, that meant safety Blackmon jumping in to play nickel cornerback along with Quinton Dunbar, who made a few highlight-reel plays. Now, with a full week of preparation, the Redskins feel confident inserting Fuller, the team's third-round draft pick, into the mix and not missing a beat.

"I'm just going in there just like any other game," Fuller said. "Just expecting to go out there and compete. Have fun. I'm looking forward to the 1-on-1 battles and just at the end of the day, it's just going out there and competing."

Fuller began his tenure with the Redskins recovering from a knee injury he experienced during his senior season at Virginia Tech. Head coach Jay Gruden thought the rookie wouldn't participate with the team until training camp, but Fuller surprised staff and was able to compete  a little bit in OTAs.

"We feel good about his growth," Gruden said. "We didn't want to rush him back but I think he's ready. I think he was ready in Week 1, actually, to play. We just thought [Dashaun] Phillips had earned the right to play to start the season. If he's banged-up we don't have any doubt that Fuller can fill in. [Greg] Toler can play nickel, [Will] Blackmon can play nickel, so we have a lot of good options to deal with and we'll see who's ready to go come Sunday."

Fuller will likely see the majority of time playing in the nickel position, a role he said he played during the first half of his freshman year. He's leaned on Blackmon and Phillips this week to fine-tune the nuances of the position as well as his own preseason experience, in which he recorded and interception, to gain confidence.

"That's really something I take pride in – being able to play anywhere on the field," Fuller said. "It's something I'm looking forward to."

Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their Week 4 game against the Cleveland Browns Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.

Cornerback Greg Toler has been on the opposite side of the equation with the Cardinals in 2011. He was placed on Injured Reserve with an ACL injury and had a backup come and play well at his spot.

"Had a guy step in for me and he did well also because he prepared as a starter," Toler said. "You've just got to be ready when your number is called."

Both Toler and Blackmon said that adapting to new roles has been easier because of the close-knit bonds in the secondary. Each player has each other's back, which leads to better communication in the midst of change. All of the versatility helps, too.

"Guys go down, we can put a guy at nickel, we can put a guy at safety, we can put a guy at corner," Toler said. "I think it helps a defense. The more you can do I think it's good to have those types of guys on your team, and the guys that have so many skills and different skillsets at different positions."

That should benefit Fuller, who will try to approach Sunday just like each game in which he's appeared, ready for action when needed.

"All of us – guys go down, some guys have to step up," Fuller said. "That's just football – that's just life in general. You've just got to keep working hard and keep on moving forward."

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