Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.
With the Washington Football Team just a few weeks removed from the season finale and a critical offseason on the horizon, it's time to turn the page to the 2022 campaign.
Over the next two weeks, washingtonfootball.com will break down every position group and lay out who the team could potentially add via free agency and the draft. Here are the position groups covered so far:
Next up are the safeties:
On the roster
Between the free agent acquisitions, draft picks and return of former Pro Bowlers, the safety position was a busy one last offseason. Washington brought in versatile veteran Bobby McCain, drafted Darrick Forrest as a depth and special teams player and saw Landon Collins make his return from a torn Achilles.
With McCain being a new addition to the secondary; Forrest being placed on Injured Reserve and not returning until Week 10; and Collins being moved to the "buffalo nickel" spot midway through the season, there were some growing pains -- Washington finished 29th in passing yards allowed. However, it looked like the position started to come into its own by the season's end, thanks to a few bright spots.
McCain, who is set to be a free agent in March, finished the year leading the team with four interceptions. Two of them came in the season finale against the New York Giants with one being returned for a touchdown. He was a leader on the field, said assistant defensive backs coach Richard Rodgers, and as it turns out, McCain ended up having the best statistical season of his career with 63 tackles and nine pass breakups.
Pro Football Focus also ranked McCain as Washington's highest-graded safety with a 70.9 overall grade, which was anchored by a 72.6 cover grade.
"He was a nice addition for us," Del Rio said. "I think he does a great job of being prepared each week and working hard, communicating. Overall [I'm] happy that we had him."
In terms of run-stoppers, Collins was one of the better options at the position. The move to buffalo nickel worked out in his favor, as he finished with PFF's eighth-highest run defense grade among all safeties. He grabbed at least seven tackles in eight games, which helped him finish third on the team with 81.
"He works, brings great energy every day.," Del Rio said. "He's a good communicator in the room, he's a leader in the room. We're pleased with the way things are going, the way we're growing together and playing better football down the stretch. We need that to continue."
Kamren Curl continued to rely on his versatility and grew as an all-around player in his second season. He wasn't quite as dominant against the passing game as he was during his rookie season, when he grabbed three interceptions, one of which was run back for a touchdown, but he was stingier against the run, as he finished second on the team with 99 tackles. His 62 solo tackles were third for the Burgundy & Gold with only Kendall Fuller and Cole Holcomb finishing ahead of him.
His PFF grade of 69.5 didn't lead the safeties in his draft class like it did in 2020, but the rankings still show that he's one of the better young players at his position. His overall grade, run defense grade (75.6), pass-rushing grade (68.2) and coverage grade (65.5) were all in the Top 10 of his fellow safeties drafted in 2020.
"This guy really gets it, he understands," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "Then we've been able to move him around. He plays a lot of different positions for us. He's called a safety,
Other main contributors for the position were Forrest and captain Deshazor Everett. Most of their snaps came on special teams with Forrest recording seven tackles and Everett getting 10. Jeremy Reaves, who spent most of the season on the practice squad before joining the active roster, finished the season with 29 tackles in five games.
Relive the highlights from each week of the Washington Football Team's 2021 season by scrolling through the top photos of the year. (Photos by Emilee Fails, Karlee Sell and Joseph Noyes/Washington Football Team
As mentioned above, McCain will be a free agent in March, so Washington will need to decide if it wants to re-sign him. Other options at the position include Tyrann Mathieu, Devin McCourty, Marcus Maye and Quandre Diggs. Check out the full list, HERE.
There are three safeties in the Top 40 of this year's class, the first of which being Notre Dame junior Kyle Hamilton, who was featured on multiple All-American lists. The other two players are Penn State's Jaquan Brisker -- a semifinalist for the Bednarik and Jim Thorpe Awards -- and Michigan's Daxton Hill -- an All-Big Ten selection. Check out the full list of prospects, HERE.