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Benjamin St-Juste earned the opportunity to compete with the Washington Football Team's starters after an exceptional training camp. His physicality made him a tough matchup against Washington's better receivers, and Ron Rivera believes St-Juste is "just scratching the surface" of his talent.
Over the past two weeks, St-Juste has been introduced to the cream of the NFL's wideout crop, including the likes of Keenan Allen, Kenny Golladay and Mike Williams. His assessment of how he's performed at the start of his career: there's been some positives but even more teachable moments.
"I've got to adapt very fast," St-Juste told Senior Vice President of Media and Content Julie Donaldson. "And obviously they're all pros, so they're there for a reason, too, so they have to make plays. But at my position, you have to have a short-term memory. So next time, it's my turn to make plays."
There was plenty of excitement surrounding St-Juste ahead of Washington's Week 1 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers. The hope was that his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame would create problems for Allen and Williams. Still, the rookie had a tough first outing. It was against St-Juste that Williams made his touchdown reception that proved to be the game-winning score.
The following day, Rivera pointed out that St-Juste actually put himself in a good position, but Williams and quarterback Justin Herbert made a veteran play that would have been difficult for the defense to counter, regardless of what it did.
"Week 1, I came in and I was put in a situation where maybe...as a rookie, I didn't have as much experience as the other guys," St-Just said. "So I learned from that, watched a lot of film and talked with my coaches."
In preparation for Week 2 against the New York Giants, St-Juste wasn't focused on making a splashy, two- or three-interception performance. Instead, he wanted to work on the smaller details that he didn't do as well against the Chargers and build on them.
With a Pro Football Focus grade of 62.0, St-Juste performed much better during the Thursday night game. He recorded three tackles and a pass deflection while working against Darius Slayton. He read the play perfectly, and when Slayton broke down to come back towards the line of scrimmage, St-Juste used his length to bat the ball away.
So, St-Juste has shown growth, and Jack Del Rio has taken notice.
"I like the young man," Del Rio said. "I think he's done a great job coming in here and finding a role in this football team. So I just want him to continue to meet the challenges that he faces each week."
The challenges St-Juste will face this year aren't going to get any easier. Aside from players like Mike Evans, Devante Adams and Tyreek Hill on the schedule, Washington also has Stefon Diggs coming up next this weekend.
Team will keep testing him; that's the reality that comes with St-Juste being a rookie. He's not balking at the challenge, though, and as he continues to build his skillset, he plans to take things one play at a time.
"It's a better situation for me," St-Juste said. "Because it puts me in a better situation where I can make plays. They throw the ball at me, I make plays and after that they're like, 'Okay, he's the real deal. We can't throw his way. It's more of a situation where I can prove myself."
To hear more from exclusive interviews with Washington's players, tune into "Washington Football Team with Julie Donaldson" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:30-6 p.m.