The Washington Commanders’ roster is largely healthy heading into Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Of course, very few rosters have a full clean bill of health after a grueling offseason program, training camp and preseason.
The Commanders, unfortunately, are one of them.
Their biggest concern right now is safety Kam Curl, who recently underwent (seemingly minor) surgery to address an apparent thumb injury. Curl sustained the injury against Kansas City in Week 2 of preseason and his practice participation the last few days included opening stretches before heading to the side field.
It always seemed like a long shot that Curl would suit up Sunday, and that was confirmed Friday as he was ruled out for the opener.
While the Commanders should still dispose of the Jaguars without the versatile defensive back, these defenders must step up in his absence.
These Commanders must step up vs the jaguars without Kam Curl
As Curl’s running mate at safety, it’ll be on McCain to captain the defensive backfield against Jacksonville. Re-signed to a two-year contract after finishing the 2021 season on a high note, McCain figures to hit the ground running this year now that he has a full grasp of the playbook and his teammate’s mannerisms.
McCain finished 2021 with a 70.9 player grade from PFF after logging four interceptions and allowing just a 59% completion rate in coverage. He’ll largely play free safety Sunday without Curl, but he can cover the slot in a pinch (99 snaps last year) and line up in the box (122 snaps) as a LB/S hybrid when need be.
Forrest’s rookie season was essentially a wash after he injured his hamstring during the preseason and was shelved until Week 10. At that point, Forrest was significantly behind the eight ball and the defense just started turning the corner.
With little snaps to go around, Forrest didn’t see extensive defensive action until Week 18, when he logged 20 of his 26 defensive snaps for the season.
As one of Washington’s camp and preseason standouts, though, Forrest seems poised to be a huge factor on Jack Del Rio’s defense in 2022. Whereas McCain predominantly plays free safety, the 23-year-old Forrest is just as comfortable coming down into the box and showcasing his physicality against the run.
Expected to be an immediate special teams stud, Butler probably didn’t think he’d be entrusted with a big role on defense out of the gates. With Curl shelved, the rookie fourth-round pick will likely be deployed similar to Forrest.
Both players were drafted to patrol the roof of the defense and drop into the box when necessary. Their range and versatility is the closest thing to Curl the Commanders have in their safety room so both players will seemingly see their fair share of snaps against the Jaguars. Talk about being thrown into the fire.
We’ll know soon enough of Butler and Forrest are up to the challenge.
Quick sidenote: I’d expect Jeremy Reaves to get some snaps, too. He’s more of a traditional safety like McCain, but as he showed throughout camp and preseason, he has a penchant for making the occasional splash play in the backfield.