It’s early, yes. But as Washington Commanders’ OTAs continue and training camp draws nearer, certain names are emerging as candidates for ‘most impressive offseason showing.’
One of those names is cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, the second-year man out of Minnesota. As a rookie, St-Juste showed growth over the season, much like the rest of Washington’s secondary. Entering his sophomore year in the pros, he’s widened some eyes in Ashburn.
“His length, his footspeed, his patience, his physicality with the receivers—I mean, Jahan [Dotson] has been very, very sharp, except when he goes up against Benjamin St-Juste,” said former Washington tight end and current analyst Logan Paulsen on the team's Command Center show. “All those things you want: check, check, check, check. He’s playing a little buffalo nickel, he fits runs well, he’s just been super impressive to me.”
Watching Commanders OTAs from the sideline, Paulsen’s analysis rings true. St-Juste is hard to miss, as he’s the lankiest guy on the field, listed at 6-foot-3 and just 200 pounds (though he looks to eclipse that height by an inch or two).
Also, Paulsen’s comment on rookie WR Jahan Dotson should be music to Commanders fans' ears. Not only has St-Juste emerged as a viable option at corner, but at times Dotson has been nearly uncoverable so far this offseason. Yes, he needs work in the regular season to prove his shiftiness, but early signs from the rookie are good.
But it’s clear St-Juste is starting to stand out in his own right He flashed promise as a rookie in nine games, defending three passes and tacking on 26 tackles with one for a loss.
“Last year seeing him, you could see the potential,” said former Washington defensive back Shawn Springs. “I called him like, he was like a ‘Baby Richard Sherman’ at times. Like a 6’3” guy, it’s hard to throw over him, he’s got great ball skills and he’s physical at the line of scrimmage.”
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Washington’s secondary as a whole is shaping up to be a more cohesive unit, which they showed signs of being in the second half of 2021. After moving different players around the field and finally locking them into what looked like their proper positions, the Commanders’ defensive unit gelled to close out the season.
With Landon Collins gone, Bobby McCain has emerged as the secondary’s veteran presence. Kam Curl has begun finding his voice and is taking on more of a vocal leadership role. Kendall Fuller and now St-Juste look to be the squad’s starting cornerback tandem on either side of the field. On paper, that’s a fine-looking hodgepodge.
Shawn Springs things St-Juste could be the final piece of a devastating puzzle.
“Often times receivers like to be fancy and give you all these moves, but when you got who can stand in front of you, put his arms on you and can run with you, you can’t just mess around,” Springs said. “You gotta get off the ball. I expect a great year from him.”