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Benjamin St-Juste: A Student Of The Game

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Benjamin St-Juste raises his fist to signify a fourth down during practice. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

No matter how you want to look at it, there's a lot to like about Benjamin St-Juste.

Maybe you like his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame, or perhaps his physicality is what gets you excited. Either way, the Canadian prospect has the tools to develop into a strong player. Ron Rivera even said he has some of the same skills as Charles Tillman, so clearly Washington likes what he adds to a defense already brimming with talent.

The difference between the NFL and college players, St-Juste told reporters after Thursday's practice, is not how physical or fast they are, though; it's all about their intelligence. So, the rookie has spend much of his time trying to absorb as much information as possible.

"Really, being a student of the game," St-Juste said. "For me, being a rookie is really taking it day by day, making sure I put a little bit more extra work in a playbook so when I get out there, Coach Jack Del Rio is confident to put me out there and I'm not going to mess up any plays."

Washington is wrapping up its second week of training camp, and St-Juste has already been exposed to multiple coverages and packages. He's also been taking reps against the offense's talented receiver group that includes Terry McLaurin, Adam Humphries and Dyami Brown. For the most part, he's been holding his own, and that circles back to how he prepares.

St-Juste watches film on the previous practice and takes copious notes every night on how he can improve. Add that to the questions he asks Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III, two veterans who have nine years, 13 interceptions, 78 pass breakup -- oh, and a Super Bowl win -- between the two of them, and it makes sense that the former Minnesota Golden Gopher has a "pretty solid" grasp of the playbook.

"Watching him, he's built like [Tillman], he's got that mentality," Rivera said. "You always watch him going after the football. So, when I try to compare him to somebody, I'm doing that because I see things that tell me, 'Hey, this is what this kid's skillset is all about.'"

All that extra time studying has helped St-Juste stand out on the field. He's had a handful of pass breakups over the past two weeks on Brown as well as McLaurin, and that has given the rookie a boost of confidence. The smaller, quicker receivers are the matchups that interest him the most because they require him to use and learn different techniques.

Even in OTAs and minicamp, Rivera could see how much work St-Juste was putting into his game. He understands leverage and how to put himself in position so he can get help from his teammates. He knows when to burst, the head coach said in June, and that highlights his natural abilities.

"He has tremendous vision and understands how to play with vision," Rivera said. "He can look through the receiver to the QB with one eye on the QB and still know where his receiver is, which allows him to have great anticipation, jump and make plays. He's done a really good job showing us that he plays the whole play."

And St-Juste can count himself lucky that he gets to put the minor adjustment he sees during film study in action against players like McLaurin. His logic is simple: he knows he's here for a reason, so why not ball out?

"I try to go against him every time," St-Juste said of McLaurin. "I mean, obviously he's going to make some plays against me and we'll make some plays, but at the end of the day we get better and our team's going to win. Having best on best, iron sharpens iron."

St-Juste has caught the coaches' attention, and that's because of his dedication to be ready whenever they need him. And as for the Tillman comparison, he knows he has a long way to go. He's off to a good start, though.

"I'm not at Charles Tillman's level yet, but Coach Rivera mentioning him and my name in that same sentence, that's pretty good," St-Juste said. "I just strive to get better every day, day-by-day so I can reach Charles Tillman's status at one point."

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