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Washington 2021 Position Reset: Safety

Safeties

The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the opinion of the team.

With Super Bowl LV capping off the 2020 season, it is time to look ahead to the 2021 campaign.

Over the past few weeks, Washingtonfootball.com has analyzed the position groups and laid out who the team could potentially add via free agency and the draft. These are the positions that have been covered so far:

Next up are the safeties:

On The Roster

In Week 7, three-time Pro Bowler Landon Collins suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. In Week 15, Deshazor Everett went down with a chest injury.

Their absences, combined with performance-related changes, resulted in Washington starting five different safety combinations in 2020. Yet at the end of the season, Pro Football Focus ranked its secondary as the seventh-best in the NFL.

A big reason for that was newcomer Kamren Curl. The seventh-round rookie flashed during training camp with a few interceptions and earned immediate playing time as the team's "Buffalo nickel," serving as the third safety in sub packages. His success in this role gave the coaches confidence that Curl could step in when Collins was lost midseason, and the 6-foot-2, 198-pound bruiser rewarded them by finishing as one of Washington's most productive defenders.

Curl primarily played strong safety and led the team with 63 solo tackles, ranking him second with 88 total tackles to go along with four pass breakups, three interceptions and a touchdown. His PFF grade of 68.4 was the best among rookie safeties, as were his 19 run stops and 16 stops in coverage. As a result, he joined defensive end Chase Young on PFF's 2020 All-Rookie Team.

"Kam's a rookie who came in and is a pretty sharp individual mentally; he has the mental capacity to learn multiple positions like he did," defensive backs coach Chris Harris said Oct. 23. "I'm excited about his development. He's got the tools to be able to play in our big nickel package when he's outside and also to play back deep or at strong safety. His versatility is one of the things that I really like about him."

The highest-graded defensive back on the team was actually Jeremy Reaves, albeit with limited snaps. After bouncing to and from the practice squad upon signing with Washington in 2018, Reaves replaced the injured Collins on the active roster in late October and finally received his opportunity about a month later, shining in the team's rout of the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Reaves continued to serve as a playmaking reserve the next two games, then was thrust into the lineup once Everett was sidelined. For the season, Reaves appeared in nine games (three starts) with 25 tackles, two pass breakups, a sack and an interception. His advanced statistics were even more impressive; among safeties, he ranked sixth overall, eighth in pass-rushing and 13th in coverage, according to PFF.

"As we went through training camp, I kept an eye on him and he just did everything right," head coach Ron Rivera said of Reaves after the Cowboys game. "I watched the way he practiced. I see a lot of things, and he was a guy I was pleased with because of his attitude, his effort, his preparation."

Like Reaves and Curl, Collins and Everett are under contract through 2021 and should have roles next season.

Collins, who signed with Washington in 2019, is one of the better run-stopping defensive backs in the league, evident by his 7.3 tackles per game over six seasons. Everett is a proven special teams standout, but he performed well in six starts before landing on Injured Reserve.

Rounding out the position group is Troy Apke, who started at free safety for the first five games this season before serving as a defensive reserve and special teams contributor.

Free Agency

Established standouts Justin Simmons (Denver Broncos) and Anthony Harris (Minnesota Vikings) headline the safety market, while Marcus Williams, Marcus Maye and John Johnson III should also garner significant interests as they negotiate their second NFL contracts.

Some cheaper options include Malik Hooker, Keanu Neal, Jaquiski Tartt and Tre Boston -- the last of whom played for Rivera from 2014-16 and 2019. Check out all of the impending free agent safeties, HERE.

Draft

There are not any surefire first-round safety prospects, but Washington could look to use either its second-round pick or one of its third-round selections to draft Jevon Holland (Oregon), Trevon Moehrig (TCU) or Paris Ford (Pittsburgh). Check out a list of all the prospects, HERE.

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