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Jay Gruden loves Chris Culliver's toughness, competitiveness

PHOENIX -- The Redskins weren’t going to add Darrelle Revis so they settled on the next tier of cornerbacks. That’s where Chris Culliver entered the picture.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden called him a “major target for us.” That’s why they felt good after signing the ex-San Francisco corner earlier this month. He’ll start at corner, with his playing partner still to be determined. It could rest on DeAngelo Hall’s health as he returns from an Achilles injury.

It wasn’t just Culliver’s skill that jumped out at Gruden. There were other qualities, including toughness and competitiveness, he mentioned first. It’s what he said Monday as well. Clearly, they sought a mindset along with talent.

“I like his toughness,” Gruden said of Culliver. “He’s a great tackler, a great competitor you could see that on tape, and he has the ability to travel with the good receivers. We’ll see the Dez Bryants and Odell Beckhams in our division and give him an opportunity to do that.”

For what it’s worth, Gruden also loves the mindset of last year’s rookie, Bashaud Breeland, and said he developed into a defensive leader.

Back to Culliver. My take on him: After watching a handful of Culliver’s games following his signing, I kept watching more to try and see his flaws. It’s not as if I thought he was the best corner, but he played very well -- not a lot of separation ever by receivers; not a lot of times tested down field; disciplined with his eyes. He handled press coverage well, staying patient and not opening his hips too early, which prevented receivers from typically getting an edge at the line -- sometimes they would. I liked how he played to his help. Here’s the write-up. The big question mark will be off-the-field maturity. But the Redskins say they’re not concerned.

Now, back to Gruden’s take on him. Again, it comes down to getting a competitor. The more players who are this way, the better you become. Players all have a level of it, or they would not be in the NFL. But some have a lot more. The Redskins say Culliver has more.

“You see a corner who wants to stick his head in there and make tackles and really fly to the football and challenge the ball when it’s in the air,” Gruden said, “and challenge people in bump and run. You can see him competing on every down in every phase, getting his hands on people at the line, running to the football, doing a great job in run support. There’s not a lot of weakness in his game.”