Commanders must temper Mike Sainristil expectations amid adulation

Putting too much pressure on the young cornerback would be foolish.
Mike Sainristil
Mike Sainristil / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There have been nothing but rave reviews for the Washington Commanders since the 2024 NFL Draft concluded. Adam Peters was the right man to spearhead this exciting era of positive alterations. Everything must come together throughout the upcoming preparation period, but there's a growing belief things have turned a corner at long last.

One pick getting more lavish praise than most came in the second round. After trading down the Philadelphia Eagles, the Commanders spent the No. 50 overall selection on cornerback Mike Sainristil. Although undersized at 5-foot-9, his natural playmaking ability, supreme football IQ, and leadership qualities make him a tremendous fit for Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt Jr.'s defensive scheme.

Commanders must keep the bigger picture in mind with Mike Sainristil

Whether this is placing unrealistic rookie projections on Sainristil is anyone's guess. Former Alabama head coach Nick Saban lauded him as the best pound-for-pound prospect emerging from the college ranks this year. It was a sentiment echoed by Matt Bowen of ESPN, who proclaimed the Michigan product as his favorite selection of their entire draft based on the environment in which he landed.

"Cornerback Mike Sainristil to the Washington Commanders at No. 50. A nickel corner with a playmaking mentality, Sainristil was one of my favorite defensive backs to study. He led Michigan's defense last season with six interceptions and seven pass breakups. Look for him to play a disruptive role as a rookie in Dan Quinn's defensive system."

Sainristil has the potential to become a defensive focal point with a smooth transition. Looking at Quinn and Whitt's experience when it comes to nurturing defensive backs, one can expect immediate development as the Commanders look to install him as their slot STAR cornerback from Week 1 onwards.

While there is a strong level of intrigue about what the Commanders are getting in Sainristil, all this adulation could be raising expectations a little too much. After all, one doesn't have to look far to see how first-year cornerbacks tend to struggle more often than not.

Emmanuel Forbes suffered a similar fate one year ago. Many thought he would come in and become a game-changing, shutdown coverage presence on the outside. As every Commanders fan knows, what followed was a disastrous rookie campaign that saw the defensive back become outmatched physically and constantly overwhelmed.

Forbes isn't a lost cause just yet, but it should make people wary about placing too much on Sainristil's young shoulders.

He'll have his NFL baptism moment as all rookie cornerbacks do. He might even go through a tough stretch at some stage. The difference between Sainristil's upcoming predicament and Forbes' is the infrastructure implemented by the Commanders throughout a landmark offseason of changes across the entire franchise.

Having this improved support system and enhanced coaching provides Sanristil and others with a far greater sense of security. Quinn and Whitt aren't fighting to save their jobs like Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio were last time around. They have their players' best interests at heart and will be there to guide them on the right track every step of the way. No hidden agendas - just working in unison to reach a common goal.

Even so, keeping the bigger picture in mind with Sainristil is critical.