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Benjamin St-Juste is thriving in his new role


First-round pick Jahan Dotson has been the talk of the Washington Commanders' OTAs for his maturity, quickness and knack for leaving his rookie and veteran teammates alike in the dust. 

But this isn't another sentiment on how great Dotson has been so far, because there's one player who's able to subdue him. 

That player happens to be second-year pro Benjamin St-Juste, and after an up-and-down season that saw him miss eight games, he's showing why the coaching staff was so excited about the former Minnesota Gopher back in 2021. 

"His length, his footspeed, his patience, his physicality with the receivers … All those things you want: check, check, check, check," team analyst Logan Paulsen said on a recent episode of "Command Center." "He's just been super impressive to me."

St-Juste's coaches would agree with that sentiment. He's playing so well that defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio singled him out during his Wednesday press conference, saying that the Canadian native "is really having a terrific offseason" because of how he's been performing in the secondary.

St-Juste (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) was originally drafted with the belief that he could use his size to match up against more physically formidable wide receivers. However, because of lingering concussion issues that kept him sidelined for the last six games of the season, he never got to fully flaunt his skill set on the field.

St-Juste has been showing some of that during team drills in OTAs, although his coaches are giving him snaps at nickel, where he's working against smaller and quicker wide receivers.

Judging by how he's performed against Dotson, the move has worked out in his favor.

"He's been able to move inside and we're just looking to get our best people on the field, give them all a chance to compete," Del Rio said. "I think when you look at the work, the body of work that he's had this offseason has been very productive for us and very productive for him."

The Washington Commanders finished the final practice that will be open to the media before mandatory minicamp begins next week. Here are the top photos from Wednesday's OTA. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)

St-Juste's quickness has been the key to his success in nickel packages. That, paired with what Del Rio called "amazing" body control, allows him to keep up with players lined up in the slot.

"With a bigger, longer guy inside it definitely allows him to be disruptive, allows us to play at a high level," Del Rio said.

Even if St-Juste doesn't end up playing exclusively in the slot, coach Ron Rivera believes the experience will be of use during the season. There will be times where offenses will place bigger wide receivers in the slot. For example, Philadelphia Eagles receiver A.J. Brown (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) played in the slot on 322 snaps when he was with the Tennessee Titans.

So, if a situation like that arises, the Commanders will have an answer.

"It's going to be about matching, and you want to make sure you have the right body type on the right type of a player that's in there," Rivera said. "So, that's kind of what the thought is there. He will play on the outside as well, but we have to be able to say, 'Hey, we can put a big guy there.'"

St-Juste has been giving receivers fits throughout OTAs in his new role, which is why Paulsen and former Washington defensive back Shawn Springs named him as one of their stars of the offseason.

"Last year seeing him, you could see the potential. I called him 'Baby Richard Sherman' at times. He's a 6-3 guy, it's hard to throw him, he's got great ball skills and he's physical at the line of scrimmage," Springs said. "I expect a great year from him."

Washington's defense, particularly the secondary, did not live up to expectations after a stellar 2020 campaign. The team does feel like they're starting to find their stride, and if St-Juste can carve out a roll for himself, it gives them one more way to make that a possibility.

"He's come back, he looks healthy, he's working hard, he's growing, he's developing, he's learning," Rivera said. "I'm real appreciative of that.

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