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Darrick Forrest stepped up in first career start

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It was second-and-goal at the Washington Commanders' 14-yard line, and Trevor Lawrence slung the ball out to Travis Etienne, who turned upfield for what would have been at least a three-yard gain.

He was in the perfect position for Darrick Forrest to deliver the biggest hit of the game.

As Etienne tried to secure the pass, the running back collided with Forrest, who leveled him and popped the ball out of his grasp for an incompletion. The second-year safety flexed after the play to let the Jacksonville Jaguars know that they should think twice about testing him again.

The moment was only a portion of Forrest's impressive day, which included five tackles, two pass breakups and a game-sealing interception. That performance earned him an overall grade of 91.5 from Pro Football Focus, which not only led the team, but was also the highest grade for a safety in Week 1.

Forrest has made a point to take advantage of his opportunities, and once again, the former Bearcat delivered.

"He just worked it, worked it, and came on top," head coach Ron Rivera said of Forrest. "And that is what you a want, a guy to come out and make plays."

Forrest's progression may seem sudden, but it started taking off in June during OTAs. He was one of the more active members of the secondary during the offseason practices, as he made a habit of batting away passes from Carson Wentz. He even helped his teammates make plays, as one pass breakup led to an interception by Cole Holcomb.

That momentum carried over into training camp, when Rivera said he "took a big step from last year" and had the chance to be a more regular contributor on defense. Forrest was rewarded for his preseason effort by being placed behind as the second strong safety on the depth chart.

"He's just put a lot of work in in the film room," said cornerback William Jackson III. "We all get together and go through plays. Just to see him go out there with that confidence and put on a show like that, that was amazing."

Kamren Curl was ruled out of the Week 1 matchup, and on Sunday, it was announced that Forrest would start in his place. After the game, he admitted that "my energy was going" and his adrenaline was high, but once he settled down, he began to show why the coaching staff had so much faith in him.

After he delivered his massive hit on Etienne, Forrest forced an incompletion from Zay Jones on a third-and-19, which made the Jaguars send out the field goal unit. The play ended up being more important than a routine pass breakup, because the Jaguars' kick bounced on the right upright, keeping the Commanders' 11-point lead intact.

Forrest received another opportunity to make an impactful play for the Burgundy & Gold, but this time, the stakes were much higher. The Jaguars had a final opportunity to come back with about a minute remaining, but Forrest made sure that did not happen, as he secured his first career interception on a pass from Lawrence and made sure he kept his feet in bounds to seal the victory.

"I just feel like it was my progression over the offseason," Forrest said. "Just being around these guys, learning, progressing and just getting better. It allowed me to go out there and be comfortable and play fast."

For Forrest's teammates, who know the amount of work he has put into developing his skill set, it was encouraging to see him make an impact in his first career start.

"I'm just super proud of him because I can remember a year ago, he didn't know where to go or how to start," Jackson said. "But now, just to see him go out there and do that man, I was just super happy for him."

Curl is expected to be back from his thumb injury soon, and when that happens, Forrest will go back to his role as a backup. But he showed that he can handle himself when asked to step up.

And if that happens again, Forrest will be ready.

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