“He’ll be backing up,” Callahan said.
But Norman’s demotion might be the perfect opportunity for Fabian Moreau, who replaced Norman last weekend and may well be the Redskins’ starting cornerback opposite of Quinton Dunbar for the rest of this season. Now in his third season, Moreau has long teased Washington with his potential even as coaches have tried to find the right position for him.
For much of his time in the NFL, Moreau has bounced between playing inside and outside, with most of his time spent inside as a slot corner. But he has never been as effective there as he has been outside.
A perfect illustration is this year. In five of his past nine games, Moreau predominantly played in the slot. Four of them are his worst-rated games according to Profootballfocus.com. His three highest-rated games came when he played either right or left corner. And the numbers aren’t even close. His average grade in his five games as the slot is 43.7; his average grade in his four played outside is an above-average 68.5.
Last week, he had an excellent overall PFF grade of 78.7 and an outstanding coverage grade of 88.4, no doubt helped by his two interceptions, the second of which preserved the victory.
“I thought Fabian with the two picks that he had — the timely pick to end the game and the deep pick that he had early on — … has the skill set to work tight coverage, to play man coverage, come up and challenge guys in the bump and press,” Callahan said.
At 204 pounds, Moreau has always appeared physical enough to play on the outside, but with Norman and Dunbar holding those jobs, Moreau often has been pushed inside. Former coach Jay Gruden said last fall that Moreau could be a better fit outside. When Dunbar missed several games at the end of the season, Moreau played there and did well enough for Gruden to suggest it could be his eventual starting spot.
The move also opens up a spot at slot for rookie Jimmy Moreland, who might be a better fit inside. PFF has graded Moreland at 65.3 or higher. Last week he was at 67.7.
“That’s why we put [Moreau] out there and [had] Jimmy Moreland going inside and playing the slot,” Callahan said. “[Moreland] playing the slot gives us a little bit of a different player playing inside. We just utilize their skill set a little differently.”
Moreau hasn’t said much this week about his chance to start, turning down interview requests the past few days. After Sunday’s game he was anything but effusive in talking about himself.
“It’s all about the other 10 players,” he said. “They played their hearts out today; [Dunbar] is the best corner in the league, and I’m just trying to be like him, learning from him.”
If Norman, whose overall PFF grade this year is a 41.0, is really done as a starter in Washington, then this could be the start of the team’s future with Dunbar and Moreau as the outside corners and Moreland inside. If nothing else, the organization probably wants to know how strong a secondary with Dunbar, Moreau and Moreland can be. At 2-9 and the season seemingly destroyed, they might as well get a look.
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan did not practice Thursday, and Callahan said he remains in the concussion protocol. The four-time Pro Bowler’s iron-man streak of 139 consecutive games played seems to be in real danger. Receiver Paul Richardson also did not practice as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury. Running back Chris Thompson (toe) practiced, but is still considered day-to-day.