The Washington Football Team received solid cornerback play last season. But they still selected Benjamin St-Juste in the third round of the NFL Draft. From Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby to Jimmy Moreland, Ron Rivera made significant investments into the position in both free agency and the draft. Rather than electing to re-sign Darby, who signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Denver Broncos, Washington made a splash by signing William Jackson III to a three-year, $40.5 million deal. However, Washington’s defense also lost a quality back-up as Fabian Moreau joined former Washington executive Kyle Smith in Atlanta.
He is a lengthy corner, at 6’-3’’, who spent two years at Minnesota under P.J. Fleck after he transferred from Michigan. The Montreal native possesses the physicality to play press coverage at the NFL level. St-Juste also has the quickness to potentially become a premier corner in Washington’s defense. After impressing at minicamp, St-Juste could make an immediate impact for the Washington Football Team and even allow for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to get creative with defensive looks.
Benjamin St-Juste Could Allow for Creativity on Washington’s Defense
Press Coverage as a Boundary Corner
While quarterback play plagued Washington throughout the 2020 season, it was not the primary reason that they fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card game. Tom Brady and the daunted Buccaneers receiving core torched Washington’s secondary as Brady threw for 381 yards and Mike Evans caught six passes for 119 yards. This may have played into Ron Rivera’s emphasis on physical press corners this offseason. William Jackson III exemplifies that role as he even referred to himself as “press corner” during his introductory press conference. In his first season at Minnesota, St-Juste defended 10 passes, displaying his ball skills and man coverage abilities. However, St-Juste had a down season in 2020 as he played a fair share of snaps in the slot.
In man coverage, St-Juste could hold his own against quality receivers, allowing Del Rio to get creative with his blitz packages where Cole Holcomb and Jon Bostic both excel. In addition to creativity, Del Rio could also have an answer for bigger receivers with St-Juste as a press corner.
Taking Advantage of Kendall Fuller’s Versatility
With St-Juste potentially earning significant snaps as a rookie, Washington could use Kendall Fuller as a swiss army knife. In 2017, his last season prior to being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, Fuller primarily played in the slot with Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland playing on the boundary. According to Bleacher Report, Fuller was the best slot cornerback in the NFL in 2017, grading at an 81 out of 100.
Jimmy Moreland has played well over his first two seasons in Washington. But Fuller could give Washington an elite coverage corner to match up against elite slot receivers. Antonio Brown had a solid game against Washington, catching two passes for 49 yards with a touchdown in the Wild Card game. Many NFL teams are now putting their best wide receiver in the slot to create mismatches. This could make Fuller’s role even more important.
Despite having multiple options at free safety, including Jeremy Reaves, Bobby McCain, and Deshazor Everett, Washington could even use Fuller at free safety as he played in Kansas City. He played well in his limited snaps in Kansas City that could put him in line to receive snaps in three safety sets with Kameron Curl and Landon Collins.
Covering Tight Ends in the Slot
Washington upgraded their linebacking corps in the offseason by drafting Jamin Davis. But there are still questions regarding the coverage skills of the unit as a whole. Cole Holcomb is an excellent athlete and tackler, but he is still a project in coverage. Bostic has also never been a legitimate coverage linebacker in his career. St-Juste could be another option for a defense that immensely improved at covering tight ends last season. In 2019, Washington surrendered the 10th most yards to opposing tight ends, with 878. But, in 2020, they allowed just 673 yards, which was the third-best mark in the NFL. However, there were a few games where they struggled, such as against the Los Angeles Rams.
With a 6’-3’’ frame, St-Juste could be a crucial piece in Washington’s defense covering vertical tight ends, especially in the NFC East with Dallas Goedert and Evan Engram. His lack of elite quickness or hips should not be an issue when covering tight ends.
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