How is the Commanders secondary shaping up heading into the summer?

Darrick Forrest and Kamren Curl
Darrick Forrest and Kamren Curl / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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Commanders safety breakdown

With the signing of Terrell Burgess, the Washington Commanders have six true safeties on the roster, and this position would appear to be locked. Starters Kamren Curl and Darrick Forrest should only get better in 2023.

Curl has established himself as an above-average strong safety. The only real question remaining about Forrest is whether he can thrive should his partner in crime be lost to injury. He did not play nearly as well last season when the former seventh-round selection was out.

The speedy, hard-hitting Percy Butler is a potential special teams star. On defense, he did not play very well in his rookie season, but that can be attributed to growing pains. Another poor campaign could raise some eyebrows, but I expect he will show great improvement this year.

Fan favorite Jeremy Reaves is the reigning All-Pro special teamer, Washington’s only first-team All Pro in 2022. He has shown he can step onto the field as a safety whenever called on.

In Burgess and UDFA Kyle Henderson, the Commanders have two pretty good developmental safeties. Henderson was a team captain at Notre Dame. His physical tools are not ideal, but he is a smart player with enough size and speed to play in the pros.

Like D.J. Stirgus, I expect he needs a year of practice squad seasoning before we know what his ceiling could be. The fact that Burgess was essentially signed as a Cameron Dantzler Sr. replacement is a bit flukish.

Both were third-round draft picks in 2020 who were released by their original teams before their rookie contracts were up. That’s obviously a troubling sign. But it also means Burgess has definite athletic ability.

When the Los Angeles Rams released Burgess in the middle of last season, a lot of people were interested in seeing what he could do. He signed with the New York Giants but didn’t have much chance to make an impression. Perhaps veteran coach Richard Rodgers can unlock his true talent.

Washington currently lists Ferrod Gardner as its seventh safety. He was a college teammate of Butler who was initially listed as an undersized linebacker when the Commanders signed him as an undrafted free agent last year.

At about 215 pounds, Gardner is a tweener in the mold of Khaleke Hudson, who has strictly played linebacker in the pros, but the Commanders seem intrigued by Gardner’s potential to play the big safety role that they have used on occasion ever since they dropped the third linebacker.

I suspect Gardner is really competing with Hudson, not the other safeties, for a spot on the roster.

Finally, there is the only player listed not as a corner or safety, but as a defensive back. That is 2023 second-round draft pick Quan Martin.

Martin is the most intriguing player in this entire group. His high selection indicates something about how Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio have been building this defense. Traditional positioning seems far less important than finding ways of getting effective players on the field.

I expect Martin will play both safety and slot corner this season. I expect he will blitz. I expect initially he will play a role very similar to that of Bobby McCain in 2022. And I think Washington expects the addition of Emmanuel Forbes and Martin – whether they are technically starters or not – will upgrade the Commanders' ability to take the ball away from their opponents.

My prediction at this point is that Kendall Fuller, Benjamin St-Juste, Forbes, Martin, Rachad Wildgoose, and Tariq Castro-Fields make the team as corners. Curl, Forrest, Butler and Reaves make it as safeties.

Danny Johnson, Christian Holmes, and D.J. Stirgus are outside possibilities but most likely headed for the practice squad, along with Henderson.