With their third-round pick, the Washington Redskins surprised many fans and media by taking cornerback Fabian Moreau. The 6-foot, 206 pound Moreau is an exceptional athlete who was one of the top performers among cornerbacks at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He ran a 4.35 second 40-yard dash, with impressive showings in the other drills. He also has long, 31 1/2- inch arms, which enable him to press receivers at the line of scrimmage.
One of the first things that stands out when watching Moreau is his patience. Some press corners have a tendency to take unnecessary reaction steps at the line of scrimmage as the receiver makes his first few steps. The problem: The receiver can sell a fake one way and quickly cut back the other while the corner doesn’t have his feet set. But Moreau is excellent at being patient at the line of scrimmage, waiting for the receiver to declare his intentions before reacting.
Above, Washington State isolates a receiver to the right of the formation, whom Moreau is trusted to cover. Moreau lines up slightly shaded inside the receiver, trying to force him to work outside. The receiver has to release inside for his route, but Moreau’s positioning makes that tough. He attempts to sell a stutter step to the outside, but Moreau remains patient. That forces the receiver to adjust his route and go around Moreau to get inside. Simply by being patient, Moreau throws off the timing of the route. By the time the other receivers pass the first down marker, Moreau’s receiver is only three yards off the line of scrimmage.
Moreau is also a physical corner that isn’t afraid to put his hands on a receiver. He plays physical throughout this receiver’s release, forcing him inside further and disrupting the route even more. Moreau can be this patient and physically aggressive because of his athleticism. He’s very quick, which allows him to stay with receivers and recover if he gets beaten. He trusts his athleticism completely, which gives him confidence when playing press coverage. Moreau sticks in the hip pocket of this receiver as the route progresses, taking him out of the play as the quarterback scrambles and throws the ball away.
This patient but physical style can be seen throughout all of Moreau’s games. Because of it, he’s able to take away receivers, particularly on go routes down the sideline.
Here, Moreau is again isolated to the right side of the offense. He’s matched up against Texas A&M receiver Josh Reynolds, who was picked in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams. Moreau again displays patience at the line of scrimmage as Reynolds quickly declares he’s releasing to the outside. Once Reynolds takes that outside release, Moreau knows there’s only so many routes he can be running, most likely a go route or a comeback. Moreau gets his hands on Reynolds, forcing him outside toward the sideline and closing the throwing window for the quarterback. The quarterback predetermines the throw, but Moreau’s coverage is so tight that Reynolds ends up out of bounds as the ball goes past.
This ability to show receivers to the sideline is crucial in press coverage. If the receiver releases outside and is able to get on top of the corner, he can leave space outside the numbers to give the quarterback some leeway on his throw. But by showing the receiver to the sideline, Moreau closes that throwing window to force the quarterback to make a perfect throw to beat him. In this case, forcing the receiver out of bounds means that no throw can beat him. This wasn’t the only time Moreau was able to force the receiver out of bounds either.
Just as before, Moreau displays patience and physicality. He gets his hands on the receiver, forcing him outside and using his body to cut off his angle inside. It’s a great example of how to show a receiver to the sideline. Once the receiver takes a step out of bounds, he has to focus on reestablishing himself in bounds before he can legally touch the ball, or he’ll be called for illegal touching.
One problem that did creep up when watching Moreau was his ability to turn and locate the ball. It’s visible on that play after Moreau had forced the receiver out of bounds. Once the route is secure, Moreau attempts to turn his head and locate the football in the air. However, it appears as though he fails to find it and in the process, loses track of the receiver, who reestablishes himself back in bounds.
Fortunately, the ball is overthrown on that occasion. However, there are times when Moreau hasn’t gotten away with not being able to locate the ball in the air.
On this play, Moreau faces JuJu Smith-Schuster, a second-round pick of the Steelers. He misses his jam at the line of scrimmage, which gives Smith-Schuster the advantage, but Moreau has the speed to recover. However, he’s late to read Smith-Schuster to know when the ball is coming. He doesn’t even attempt to turn his head to find it until it’s too late. He attempts to get a hand into the catch point to break up the pass, but Smith-Schuster holds on and makes the catch.
Turning and locating the ball in the air while running away from it is a big part of ball skills and it’s something Moreau will have to work hard on improving, because he won’t always be able to press the receiver out of bounds to the point of not having to worry about locating the ball. However, when Moreau has sight on the ball coming out of the quarterback’s hands, he does show good ball skills.
Here, Moreau lines up in off coverage, about five yards off the line of scrimmage. He reads the receiver for his key, but is clearly anticipating a slant route. As the receiver reaches the top of his stem, just before he’s about to make his cut, Moreau is already beginning to shift his weight inside to jump a potential slant route. As soon as the receiver plants his foot to cut inside, Moreau breaks on the slant and turns his attention toward the quarterback. He’s able to see the ball the whole way and makes the interception, adding a good return going the other way too.
It’s not only in off coverage that Moreau shows good ball skills.
This time, Moreau lines up just two yards off the line of scrimmage. He actually gets caught out by the receiver’s stem, which takes him outside toward the numbers. Moreau opens his hips toward the boundary, but the receiver stops his feet and cuts back inside. This is where Moreau’s quickness shines through. He quickly flips his hips back inside to recover and gets his eyes in the backfield to find the ball. He makes up the ground with the ball in the air and gets his hand in at the catch point to break up the pass.
That quickness displayed on that play is just as key to Moreau’s coverage ability as any of the other traits discussed in this post. While every corner dreams of completely shutting down opposition receivers, the reality is that mistakes happen and corners do get beat. Moreau’s quickness combined with his long speed give him the ability to recover better than many corners can. The ability to recover is critical and can mean the difference between a touchdown and an incomplete pass.
Once again, Moreau is isolated in press man coverage with the receiver to the right of the formation. When isolated to one side at the goal line, cornerbacks have to know the receiver is likely to either run a slant or a fade. The receiver sells a fake fade route with his initial steps, which gets Moreau to open his hips toward the sideline. The receiver then cuts back inside, leaving Moreau in recovery mode. But as before, Moreau’s quickness saves him, allowing him to get back and undercut the route, breaking up the pass before it reaches the receiver and saving a touchdown.
Moreau has plenty of upside and probably would have been a second-round pick, if not a late first-rounder, had he not torn his pectoral muscle at UCLA’s pro day. The Redskins are fortunate: They don’t necessarily need Moreau to be ready to play early in the season, giving them the flexibility to allow him to fully recover. They also can give him plenty of time to develop before putting him on the field. He’s only been a corner for three years, having played running back in high school, and only has limited exposure to different types of coverage schemes, having mostly played press man or cover-three in college. He’s not someone I expect to make an impact early in the season, or indeed during his rookie season, depending on how his injury heals and how other corners perform. But he does have good potential and could develop into a strong starting cornerback.