The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.
We are weeks away from training camp, and there are plenty of new faces gracing the Washington Football Team's roster. So Washingtonfootball.com is breaking down each position as the team prepares for Year 2 of Ron Rivera's regime. Here are the positions we've covered so far:
Next up are the safeties, which aside from wide receiver, might have the most influx of talent. Injuries to the likes of Landon Collins and Deshazor Everett forced Kamren Curl, a seventh-round pick, and Jeremy Reaves, who went undrafted out of South Alabama in 2018, into starting roles at various points of the season. Both had their positive points in the season with Reaves getting his first-career interception and Curl being a pleasant surprise with a trio of picks, one returned for a touchdown, and 88 tackles.
Now, more help for the position is coming with Collins and Everett expected to be ready for Week 1 and Darrick Forrest joining the squad to add depth. Collins is a three-time Pro Bowler, while Everett has proven himself as a spot starter. Forrest, taken in the fifth round, made a handful of plays in minicamp.
Outside of the defensive line, the safety position has a chance to be one the defense's deepest groups.
- Darrick Forrest
-- Collins' preparations for a comeback: Collins didn't participate in team activities during OTAs and minicamp. Instead, he would stand next to defensive backs coach Chris Harris and mirror his responsibilities during plays. He's keeping his mind sharp, which is the biggest point for any player coming back from injury.
It's been a long journey, Collins said, but he felt "awesome" during Washington's offseason program, partly because of his blood flow restriction training. He's been learning to cut, run and jog again over the past few months and feels like himself again. But as he prepares for an eventual return to the field, he's been focusing on the minor aspects to make sure he's staying up to date with the defense's progress.
"Really just the smaller details," Collins said. "My alignment, my eyes. The further I'm back, the harder I gotta look, so just keying on what I'm supposed to be looking at."
-- Determining Forrest's role: One fact about Forrest was made clear during the offseason: he has the skillset to do what's asked of him. Forrest was originally thought to primarily be a special teamer, which is still a possibility, but he also grabbed a pair of interceptions in practice and got the traditional congratulations from Harris. He has speed, Harris said, and he seems "pretty bright." As training camp unfolds and he gets more reps, the coaches will have a better idea of where to put him first.
"Not sure if he'll be a free safety or a strong safety," Harris said. "But I think he's been doing a pretty good job thus far."
-- Confident Kam: It makes sense why Curl is walking around with a little more confidence these days. Last year, he was a couple picks away from being undrafted, and since then he has started 11 games. That conviction is where Harris has seen the most growth in the second-year safety. His role is a bit of a mystery right now, but Curl knows he can play wherever he's needed because he's already done it. No matter where he plays in 2021, whether it be at safety or return to the buffalo nickel position, he's already proven he can compete against top-tier competition.
"He's maturing before our eyes," Harris said. "He's trying to take on a leadership role. He's a little more talkative now out there, understanding routes, understanding formations, how offenses are trying to attack him."
What To Watch
-- More and more versatility: Harris doesn't consider his players to be pigeonholed in one position. It's one of the pillars holding up the entire group. So while there is a lot of talent with a finite number of spots to fill, there's a good chance that multiple players will spend time in the strong and free safety roles. And that might include players who aren't technically labelled as such.
Bobby McCain, listed as a cornerback on the roster, may be one of those players. He's played and started at every spot in the secondary and played well in all of them with the Dolphins. One of his best seasons, which included two interceptions, three pass breakups and 25 tackles, came in 2019 at free safety.
Of course there will be players considered to be the starters, but don't be surprised to see a rotating group on the backend.
"Whether it's safety, corner, or nickel -- no matter the spot," McCain said, "I'll do my best to perform and win."