Photo by Reggie Hildred for The Sports Capitol

Why Redskins decided to cut veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick

BY BRIAN MCNALLY | AUG. 14, 2018

RICHMOND — The Redskins cut veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick on Tuesday just five months after signing him to a two-year contract.

The move shows two things: Washington likes its young cornerbacks – and there are many of them pushing for roster spots – and that the fit with Scandrick was a disaster from the start. Both can be true.

One league source told The Sports Capitol’s Ben Standig on Monday that promising youth wasn’t the only reason for Scandrick’s departure. There was an internal split among the coaching staff and executives about Scandrick’s “feisty” attitude. The coaching staff won the argument and Scandrick is gone.

A veteran who has played nine years in the league with the Dallas Cowboys, Scandrick took offense last week when asked by The Sports Capitol’s Todd Dybas about playing slot corner, insisting he was an all-around versatile player who could play outside as well as inside. This is not a man who bites his tongue and that likely tipped the scales against him once the young corners were factored in. Both things can be true.    

What might also be true is the Redskins pushing to sign a veteran cornerback. Jay Gruden said Tuesday, the final day of joint practices with the New York Jets and the last full day of training camp, that the front office and coaching staff likes the group it has, but that the issue can be revisited later if more injuries strike or the young players aren’t ready for prime time once the season starts. We’ll see on that.  

There are veteran cornerbacks available on the open market who have not caught on yet. Former Washington corner Bashaud Breeland is one. So is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 32, a 10-year NFL veteran who most recently played for the New York Giants.

Washington can take its time on a signing like that. For now, Scandrick’s departure means two things: The Redskins are fine with Quinton Dunbar, the converted wide receiver who first played corner in 2015 during training camp, playing opposite Josh Norman. They are also good with 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau playing slot corner. Scandrick was primarily playing on the outside during offseason work and training camp, but could have bumped inside if Dunbar proved capable of handling a starting gig.

In a way, that makes pushing for a veteran like Breeland, who Washington is intimately familiar with and wanted no part of brining back when he hit free agency in March, back into the mix. Dunbar isn’t a slot corner. He would have to slide back into a reserve role and if that’s the case, well, Washington already made that decision in March.  

Now for the young cornerbacks. There is no doubt they have collectively had a good camp. Moreau was expected to as a third-round pick in 2017. He got limited special teams experience as a rookie, but is ready for a bigger role, especially when Kendall Fuller was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 30 for quarterback Alex Smith.

“When we initially signed Orlando we had just lost Kendall,” Gruden said. “That was before the draft and we drafted Stroman and obviously we got Adonis and I think the emergence of Danny Johnson, Fabian Moreau at nickel. We wanted to get these guys reps at nickel and Dunbar at corner and move on. Give Orlando ample time to get on with another team before the season started.”

Moreau was active for all 16 games in 2017. He played just 59 snaps – 34 of them against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6. The Redskins believe he is ready for a much bigger role. They are betting a lot on it.  

“[Moreau is] a strong, physical kid and he can run,” Gruden said. “I think the whole point of it is we have to get them the reps. When somebody else is here and Fabian is not taking reps, it’s not doing anybody any good. So we have to see Fabian. Fabian’s got to go through it, learn it, make his mistakes. We’ve got to get them corrected so when we play Arizona we have a great confidence that Fabian knows what to do and how to communicate and the leverages and techniques we want him to play. And I think he’ll be fine once that hits.”

Two 2018 draft picks – Virginia Tech products Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander, who was taken in the supplemental draft in July – can be worked in slowly. Alexander is behind given that he was on a college campus and not at OTAs or minicamp with the Redskins.

Stroman had a decent game at corner against the New England Patriots in the first preseason game last Thursday. He is also a threat in the return game and that is a spot of concern given Jamison Crowder’s fumbling issues two of the past three years and his general struggles in that area.

Stroman had punt returns of 20 and seven yards against the Patriots and only a shoestring tackle kept him from making more of the second one. He, cornerback Danny Johnson and wide receiver Maurice Harris all returned punts in that first game.

Alexander is the work-in-progress. He was a supplemental draft pick with the measurables to be a good player, some academic red flags at Virginia Tech that he was honest about with NFL teams in the lead up to the supplemental draft. This amounts to a redshirt year for him. But he is a big, strong corner and the hope is his speed will hold up at the position.

Johnson is the surprise. A 5-foot-9, 191-pound cornerback from Southern, he has been a revelation in camp and had a dominant game against the Patriots last Thursday. His size, of course, is a concern. But he’s also unafraid of contact and made a handful of quality tackles in that game. He was pushing for a roster spot even before Scandrick was released. Johnson impressed during OTAs and minicamp and nothing has changed in Richmond. He regularly makes plays in practice and had a two-interception day earlier in camp. 

If the Redskins need help later in the season, don’t forget 2017 seventh-round pick Josh Holsey. He is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list right now after foot surgery. That happened during training camp and Gruden admitted Holsey probably with start the season on the PUP list, which means he’s out until Week 8. Holsey was active for 12 games last year, but like Moreau was primarily a special teams player. He was on the field for just nine snaps in two games.

All of that made Scandrick expendable, although the Redskins are cleaning up their own mistake. It’s admirable. If you see young players needing a chance and the veteran isn’t a good fit, to cut your losses and move on. According to the salary web site Over The Cap.com, Scandrick signed a two-year, $7 million deal with Washington. He earned a $1 million signing bonus. That means it has $500,000 in dead money this year, but will  save $2 million against the cap.

The team line is that the young corners’ play and the desire to get Scandrick on the open market before it is flooded by cornerbacks once final cuts come early next month was the driver of the decision. In that respect, they are doing Scandrick a solid. That’s not quite the whole story, according to the league source. But in the end the move was best for both Scandrick and the Redskins. Now it’s time to see what the young corners can do in key backup roles.

“I’ve been very impressed with them all,” Gruden said. “Obviously, Adonis not as much because he just got he and he’s been hurt. But he’s got the skillset that we’ve noticed that as far as your sixth corner I think can be a very good guy to have in your building and develop. And watching Stroman and watching Danny Johnson compete and play, I’ve been impressed. Watching Fabian move inside, I’ve been very impressed. We still have time. If it doesn’t work out or somebody gets injured we still have time to make moves also ourselves.”

Brian McNally is a senior staff writer and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. He is also an award-winning multi-media journalist, who has covered the Redskins, Capitals and Nationals for the Washington Examiner, Washington Times and 106.7 The Fan and major events like the Super Bowl, NCAA basketball tournament, Stanley Cup playoffs, NBA playoffs, NFL Combine and NFL Draft.

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