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Emmanuel Forbes showed confidence in bounce back game vs. Patriots

Washington Commanders cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) prior to an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Washington Commanders cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) prior to an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Two days before the Washington Commanders were scheduled to kick off against the New England Patriots at Gilette Stadium, **Emmanuel Forbes Jr.** posted a picture of himself warming up on his Instagram with just two words: "IMMMM BACKKK."

The rookie was right. He was back in a big way, and he played a significant role in making sure the Commanders returned from Foxborough, Massachusetts, with a 20-17.

After playing a combined 10 snaps in three weeks, Forbes was back to being a more regular contributor with 48 snaps -- his second-highest total of the season -- and for the first time in more than a month, he looked like the player Washington drafted with the No. 16 overall pick, recording three tackles and two pass breakups.

While no player wants to get benched, it seems the time off and having to work to get back on the field has done some good for Forbes.

"That was new," Forbes said in the locker room after the win. "Something I had to learn and grow from it … Honestly, not taking it personal. Going to work every day to work and get better at my craft."

After seeing the skid that Forbes went through to start the month of October, it was clear that something needed to be done.

All cornerbacks get beat, but Forbes was struggling mightily and giving up explosive plays because of it. In the Week 4 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, A.J. Brown had his way with Forbes for most of the day. He was continuously lined up against the 226-pound Pro Bowl receiver and allowed him to make nine of 13 targets for 175 yards and 175 yards and two touchdowns. For the day, he allowed 197 yards and a passer rating of 151.4.

Four days later, Forbes allowed three receptions for 76 yards, including a 39-yarder. The following week, Forbes was benched and did not play a single snap in the Commanders' 24-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Head coach Ron Rivera said he wanted Forbes to see a different view of the game and learn as much as he could.

"It's a learning experience, learning from the sideline," Forbes said. "Just taking notes and cheering on my teammates, honestly. Seeing how the quarterback and knowing what reads he goes through and different teammates going through situations and how I can add to my game."

Check out the best photos of the Washington Commanders' Week 9 matchup with the New England Patriots. (photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)

Clearly, Forbes took those lessons to heart, and the Commanders gave him more opportunities to show what he could do. Despite not starting, he still appeared in 75% of the defensive snaps.

Naturally, the Patriots noticed this, and like the Eagles and Bears did in previous weeks, they tried to test him. Quarterback Mac Jones targeted him seven times on his 37 coverage snaps. There wasn't much success to be had, though, as Forbes allowed just two receptions for 12 yards.

Forbes' first big play came on a third-and-4 during the Patriots' third drive of the game. Jones targeted Tyquan Thornton near the middle of the field at the 43-yard line, but Forbes made a dive and used his 6-foot wingspan to bat the ball away.

His second pass breakup came in the third quarter, when he got in the way of a pass intended for Jalen Reagor. It looked like Forbes might get his second interception of the year, but he couldn't maintain possession before it fell to the turf. Either way, it prevented a Patriots first down, and two plays later, New England was forced to punt the ball back to Washington.

Forbes was also more willing to take on ball-carriers, which he showed by taking down Demario Douglas for no gain.

On Monday after the victory, Rivera said he doesn't believe Forbes' improvement was because of some drastic changes to who Forbes is as a player.

"I think it was more about just learning and understanding and getting what it takes to play the position. I think a big part of it too was working some of the technique things that we're asking of him."

The results show just much better Forbes played against the Patriots. He received an overall grade of 91.3 -- the best for a Commanders defensive player -- to go with a cover grade of 91 from Pro Football Focus. Both were his best of the season by wide margins.

Regardless of why Forbes is playing better, his teammates are thrilled for him.

"He's been someone I've talked to a lot throughout this year just trying to help him continue to grow because he's such a good player and we all know he is," said Commanders quarterback **Sam Howell.** "He's just been in some bad situations, and it was cool to see him go out there and play well today. He had a really good game today."

And Rivera could see a difference, too.

"Forbes had a good day yesterday," Rivera said. "He played with a little bit more confidence, he's doing a lot of things that we asked for."

The next step for Forbes will be to stay consistent. Because while he did play better, he's not done developing his skill set. Rivera was quick to point that out on Monday.

"He still has a ways to go," Rivera said. "He did some good things, but there's still some things that we're missing that he's got to get better at. He's got to understand how important those things are, and we'll continue to harp on it."

Washington's next challenge will be considerably tougher for Forbes and the rest of the Commanders' secondary. Wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who have 66 receptions and five touchdowns between the two of them, and a step up from JuJu Smith-Schuster and Reagor. What's more, Metcalf's 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame adds to that challenge.

The Commanders still believe in Forbes, but they still want to see more from him.

"There's some detailed things...he must pay attention to if he's going to be a really good player in this league," Rivera said.

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