The offseason is a time for experimentation as teams move players around in the lineup to see how they fit in the rotation and where they will have the most impact. The Washington Commanders have done plenty of that with Emmanuel Forbes.
Forbes operated mostly on the outside during his days at Mississippi State, and it was there that he became one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC, smashed FBS records and gave receivers fits.
But the Commanders like their defensive backs to be comfortable with versatility. They want the secondary to be flexible and be able to play at any spot in the defensive backfield. So, while Forbes has been on the outside for plenty of plays, he's also seen some time in the slot.
That might come off as a little surprising, given Forbes' size (he's listed as 180 on the team website), but the rookie has been able to thrive wherever the coaches put him.
"He's looked pretty good," said head coach Ron Rivera. "He's very quick. That's one of the things that he is, he's really quick. When you get those little water bug routes where the guys are trying to run options off you inside or out, he seems to handle those very well."
It's not necessarily a permanent move for Forbes, but the coaches are moving him in there on occasion to help him learn the defense. He has to process what he's seeing at a quicker pace because the play is unfolding all around him as opposed to if he was working on the outside.
Moving inside also means that Forbes needs to be more physical, but he's already shown that he isn't afraid to take on bigger players. He knocked away two contested passes from Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, one of which was almost intercepted.
And, in a smaller teaser for training camp, Forbes pulled up as he was about to collide with Brian Robinson near the sideline. Players cannot hit during the offseason, but if that play had occurred in August, we would have seen a victor walk away from that matchup.
As running backs coach Randy Jordan said as Forbes jogged back to the huddle, "I can't wait to see it!"
Here are some other observations from today's practice.
-- It was a slow start for the offense during 7-on-7 drills, but the clear highlight of the period was a play between Sam Howell and Cole Turner. After Turner created some separation between him and Khaleke Hudson, Howell aired out a 30-yard pass to the tight end that landed perfectly in Turner's hands.
-- Turner had a strong 7-on-7 period overall, and he made another impressive grab working with Jacoby Brissett. He stretched out to haul in a pass near the sideline and got both feet in bounds. Turner has flashed at various points this offseason in a similar way that he did last year. Assuming he can stay healthy, Turner could be set for a big step forward.
-- Cody Barton secured his first turnover of the offseason today. After Quan Martin deflected a pass from Howell, Barton was in the right spot to secure the ball with some celebration from his defensive teammates.
-- Howell's connection with Dotson could be fun to watch. During red zone drills, the two connected on a pass to the end zone with Dotson holding onto the ball despite a hard fall. Granted, Howell likely would have been sacked on the play, but it was still positive to see Howell building chemistry with his receivers.
-- The Commanders have implemented a new strategy with Howell and the other quarterbacks this offseason: he's been mic'd up at practice so the team can evaluate his command of the huddle and how he relays plays.
"We've only done it a couple of times, but you see the growth already and for me, it was pretty good," Rivera said. "I was watching it this morning. A couple things that really stood out to me was really his confident level in terms of calling the huddle, breaking the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage, making his calls, and then operating the offense."
-- A lot has been made about Howell being the incumbent starting quarterback this offseason. The Commanders are going to give him every opportunity to earn the job for Week 1, but he still needs to prove to the coaches that he can handle it. The decision has received plenty of support from the fans, and while he does appreciate that love, he's not letting it get to his head.
"I'm just super blessed, that people are supporting me. Obviously, I really don't think I've deserved anything at this point, but I am super thankful to the fans, they've been awesome to me."