The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.
With Landon Collins lost for the season with an Achilles injury, it would have been easy for head coach Ron Rivera to sign Eric Reid as his replacement. Reid, 28, started 29 games at strong safety during Rivera's final two seasons with the Carolina Panthers, and his 201 tackles during that stretch were second behind perennial All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly. He and Collins are both physical defensive backs who excel in stopping the run.
Instead, Rivera offered Reid a practice squad spot that Reid declined. Rivera's reasoning was two-fold: he hoped to gradually work Reid back in -- Reid thought he was mentally and physically ready to play right away -- and he wanted to see what the team had in young safeties Kamren Curl and Jeremy Reaves. The coaching staff already likes Curl a lot, and it appears the seventh-round rookie will be the full-time starter moving forward.
"We like Kam as a player," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said Thursday. "We've got a group that's been working together, that understands the way we do things. We feel like it's the best way for us to go forward."
Curl has been one of the biggest surprises so far this season. Despite being selected 216th overall and having no in-person offseason workouts, Curl played 32% of the defensive snaps in the season opener and dipped below 22% just once in seven games.
Washington mostly utilized Curl as the "Buffalo nickel" because of his 6-foot-2, 198-pound frame and coverage skills. In traditional nickel packages, a cornerback replaces a linebacker on passing downs. But in "big nickel" packages, Curl has come in as a third safety who also has experience at cornerback. That way, Washington is equipped to handle a variety of formations.
"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."
Rivera also highlighted Curl's intelligence and versatility and said Curl reminded him of a "young [Kendall] Fuller," who currently is tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions. Curl will now have a chance to prove himself as a full-time starter, just like Fuller did a few years ago in Washington.
"We just feel Kam is a heck of a football player who can help us," Rivera said.
-- Chase Young receives C+ from his mom: Chase Young's mom has high expectations for her son, and while he has certainly made his presence felt through eight weeks -- he's by far the highest-graded defensive rookie according to Pro Football Focus -- his sack totals are not where she wants them to be.
"My mom, she gave me like a C+, so take that on the chin and keep it moving; got to respect what she says," Young joked. "She said I'm not leading the league in sacks, so she gave me a C+. I'm definitely going to get them up."
-- "I am because we are": During Thursday's press conference, Rivera sported a black shirt with "UBUNTU" on the front and "I am because we are" with the "W" as the Washington Football Team logo on the back. Rivera said that it was an idea him and running back J.D. McKissic talked about last week, and it relates to the culture Rivera wants to build.
"The whole attitude and idea is that the success of the individuals is the responsibility of the team and the success of the team is the responsibility of the individual."
-- Rivera contemplates how Del Rio is able to turn around defenses so quickly: Over three decades, Del Rio completely turned around the defenses of the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Washington Football Team in his first year there. The secret? Rivera points to discipline and credibility.
"I will say this, just in watching him he's demanding. There's a certain discipline to the way he coaches, which I think is really important in this league. I'm not saying not all coaches enforce discipline, but there's just something about guys that have had experience and had success in the past. ... I think that really carries credence with these players. If you show them you know what you're doing, you show them you care about them being successful, I think that helps. I think that's one of the things Jack does."
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The Washington Football team held practice at the Inova Sports Performance Center in Ashburn, Virginia, on Nov. 5, 2020. (Photos courtesy of Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team & Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)