Commanders UDFA Cornerback Could Crack 53-Man Roster

When you have the worst defense in the NFL, like the Washington Commanders did in 2023, it usually means every spot is up for grabs on that side of the ball.

Draft picks, free agents, undrafted free agents … everybody is getting a shot.

That’s why Bleacher Report’s Ryan Fowler singled out undrafted free agent cornerback Chigozie Anusiem out of Colorado State as the UDFA most likely to crack the Commanders’ 53-man roster this fall.

“A long and physical corner, Chigozie Anusiem fits the mold of what new Washington Commanders head coach Dan Quinn covets in his perimeter defenders,” Fowler wrote. ” … Anusiem’s ability to seamlessly work downhill as a Cover 3 corner should give him a floor for success in the NFL.”

Even on a bad defense, the Commanders’ secondary was especially porous last season — they gave up more passing yards (4,627) and passing touchdowns (39) than any team in the NFL in 2023 and opposing quarterbacks completed almost 70 percent of their passes against Washington.

Anusiem Went From Pac-12 to Mountain West

Anusiem spent four seasons at Cal from 2018 to 2021 and only played in 25 games over those four seasons, including six starts.

He transferred to Colorado State for the last two seasons, where he blossomed. Anusiem earned honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference honors in 2022 and 2023 and only missed one game over two years.

One knock on Anusiem? He only had one interception in six years in college.

NFL analyst Lance Zierlein had Anusiem, 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, projected as a sixth or seventh round pick — enough size that a position switch is possible.

“Anusiem is a big, strong outside cornerback whose lack of ball production could cancel out his favorable size,” Zierlein wrote. “He doesn’t have ideal top-end speed or closing burst, but he’s a decent athlete in space. He’s more interested in covering than finding the football and taking it away, and that is unlikely to change in the NFL. He might not have the necessary speed to stick at cornerback, but his tackling success and size give him a chance to try his hand at safety.”

Commanders Going Hard After New Cornerbacks

The Commanders are in the middle of almost a complete overhaul of their secondary room — 2023 first-round pick Emmanuel Forbes already seems like a bust and Washington brought in three new defensive backs via free agency.

“Questions still remain about Benjamin St-Juste and 2023 first-rounder Emmanuel Forbes,” Fowler wrote. “So a solid showing this summer could help Anusiem suit up in a key rotational role for Washington this fall.”

The Commanders may have drafted a plug-and-play starter with Michigan cornerback Mike Sainristil in the second round (No. 50 overall) of the 2024 NFL draft. Sainristil was the unquestioned leader on Michigan’s defense in 2023 as the Wolverines went 15-0 and won the College Football Playoff national championship.

“Washington’s cornerbacks struggled last season,” ESPN’s John Kein wrote. “The Commanders signed three corners in free agency, but needed more players who could compete for starting roles. Sainristil will do just that, though he would play in the slot, where there also was a need … Sainristil also showed he can take the ball away in college with seven interceptions. Washington needs more players like that in the secondary.”

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