Unexpected player emerging as ‘leader’ of Commanders secondary
By Jerry Trotta
The Washington Commanders‘ secondary was shambolic for most of 2021.
Over the first half of the schedule, it couldn’t stop a nosebleed. From failing to fulfill an individual assignment or communication breakdowns, quarterbacks had no trouble picking apart Jack Del Rio’s secondary last season.
Luckily, the unit improved in the second half of the year, providing a glimpse of how difficult it can be to play against if it starts on the right foot.
But who will the secondary turn to as its leader without Landon Collins? Collins’ deficiencies in coverage are well-documented, but his experience and reputation as a three-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro made him an ideal voice of reason.
Will it be Kendall Fuller? Bobby McCain is outspoken and would surely relish the opportunity to preside over the secondary as a leader, right? We don’t doubt it. However, Ron Rivera told the media that one Kamren Curl is “starting to find his voice” as an unexpected leader of the Commanders’ secondary.
Ron Rivera believes Kam Curl is emerging as the leader of the Commanders’ secondary at OTAs.
Inject this right into our veins. We always took Curl as a “lead by example” type player. You don’t hear much of him from a media perspective. He comes off as a soft-spoken player who just wants to get after it on Sundays, so the fact he’s taking the bull by the horns and growing into a leadership role is surprising … but equally satisfying and suggests he’s poised for a huge third season.
If there was one member of Washington’s secondary who could actually be applauded for being consistent for the entire schedule last year, it’s probably Curl. Yes, Fuller earned stellar grades from Pro Football Focus, but it didn’t really click for him until he was moved outside after he started the year in the slot.
That’s not to belittle Fuller’s importance. Curl simply personified consistency more so than any other member of the secondary. In 16 games, the former seventh-round pick finished second on the team with 91 tackles, fifth with five pass breakups and 27 defensive stops and allowed just 9.1 yards per reception.
On a defense plagued by poor tackling, especially in the second and third levels of the field, Curl zigged when seemingly all of his teammates zagged, as his 82.4 tackling grade from PFF finished tops amongst the first-team defense.
Hey, Curl, how do you feel now that OTAs have started?
Looks like Curl missed playing football! Perhaps some of his newfound leadership instincts can be attributed to his love for the game. Maybe he was disgusted with how the secondary performed in the first half of 2021. Maybe something clicked over the last few months or Rivera reached out to him during the offseason.
Who knows? Maybe leading in just in his DNA. Some players are just built different, as the kids say. Whatever helped expedite Curl’s ascension to a leadership role, this is fantastic news for the secondary and the defense as a whole.
As someone who just turned 23 in March, it’s downright scary (in a good way!) to think what the future holds for the Arkansas product.