There weren't many high expectations from an outside perspective for Kam Curl when Washington drafted him 216th overall. How much could come from someone who was just a handful of picks away from being undrafted?
It turns out the answer is a lot.
Curl emerged as a pleasant surprise once he took over as the starting strong safety after Landon Collins went down for the year against the Cowboys. The versatility he showed in training camp became a key to the defense's success, as he finished with 2.0 sacks, three interceptions -- one returned for a touchdown -- and 88 tackles.
Now that Collins is back and Bobby McCain has been signed, many have been asking what's next for Curl. Is he a strong safety, or will he go back to his old position of buffalo nickel? Jack Del Rio views it with a simple lens: Curl fits wherever Washington puts him.
"We expect him to continue to be who he is," Del Rio said. "He's bright and a good football player and makes good football decisions on the field."
Curl's versatility was exactly what made him an ideal fit for Washington's buffalo nickel position in the first place. It offers more freedom to utilize all of Curl's skills, whether the play requires him to play closer to the line of scrimmage, cover a tight end or handle a running back. And seeing as he recorded 15 tackles in the role, it wouldn't be difficult for him to slide back into that spot again.
That doesn't mean Curl will stay at one spot, though. The secondary is full of versatility, one example being Kendall Fuller occasionally sliding over the free safety last year, albeit for 11 snaps. It's especially true now that McCain, who has played at every spot on the back end, has joined the roster.
So, that universal flexibility could free Curl up to move all over the field.
"Him being a rookie last year and being thrown into the fire, as I told him, that's a big deal that you played well," McCain said. "Now you can build off that, and you can only go up from here."
And Curl has already proven he can handle the mental responsibilities to switch positions at any moment. There are times when he would move from nickel corner to strong safety to dime linebacker, often from one down to the next, because his coaches saw that he had the mental capacity to do it.
"It's always good to have one solid guy at a position," Curl said, "but it's even better, in my opinion, to know that if one guy goes down, we've still got another guy who's solid at that position."
Now that Curl has already shown that he can handle the hybrid role, Chris Harris has seen more of a "quiet confidence" in the second-year player. He proved he can compete at the highest level, Harris said, which has helped him become more talkative in the huddle and understand what defenses are trying to attack him.
The way Harris sees it, the swagger was rightfully earned.
"I feel like I'm playing faster," Curl said, "because I'm seeing stuff quicker. I can anticipate stuff more because of the experience."
On top of that, Curl will have a full offseason of OTAs, minicamp and training camp to build on heading into the upcoming season, which he believes will be useful.
"Last year, everything was in such a tight timespan," Curl said. "Now there's an opportunity to focus on details...and really understand the little things in the defense."
So maybe Curl won't be a starter. It's possible he'll be the secondary's Swiss Army knife that can be used wherever he's needed. Or perhaps the coaches will decide to keep him as a buffalo nickel. Regardless of where he lands, Washington will find a use for him.
"There are ways to use guys and more learning to use a guy like that to the best of his abilities that suits us," Ron Rivera said. "There's a lot of things that you can do to utilize players."