Surprise draft steals always bring out the best entering an offseason. For the Washington Football Team, what Kam Curl brings fits the bill.
A seventh-round pick out of Arkansas, Curl proved to be the WFT runner-up top name from the 2020 class following Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young. That role for Curl only expanded when safety Landon Collins left in Week 7 with a torn Achilles.
Curl led all WFT defensive backs in tackles (88), sacks (3.0) and finished second on the team in interceptions (3). We would expect his position to expand in 2021.
Jack Del Rio's defensive scheme will run plenty of three-safety sets. However, moving Curl back to a special-teams role is far from acceptable; even if Collins is ready for Week 1.
WFT could try playing both with the former Razorback moving over to the free safety role, they still need a ball-hawk to cause turnovers deep. There's another option where both could be on the field at the same time.
Is Collins willing to move down to linebacker?
Bruce Arians' defense coined the "money backer" role over the past decade when selecting Deone Bucannon back in 2014. The NFL is turning more the pass, meaning speed up the middle is essential for defenses at the second-level.
When selected by the New York Giants in 2016, Collins was coming off his more well-rounded season with the Crimson Tide. One year later, multiple defensive sets had the former Alabama star playing near the line of scrimmage.
Collins has overall value as a safety, but his skillset is more suitable to a linebacker playing downhill. Against the run, Pro Football Focus in past years, has ranked him one of the best defenders in the game — specifically in the box and against the run. In coverage, he lands near the bottom ten of his position.
Before his blown Achilles this year in week seven, Collins was struggling with everything. He was missing tackles at an alarming rate.
Washington will be looking for an upgrade at linebacker this offseason. In their defensive scheme, Del Rio will be looking for help in stopping the run, a sore spot far too often in 2020.
Washington might also have to replace free-agent Kevin Pierre-Louis' coverage skills. The 29-year-old was the best of the bunch when defending backs and tight ends in zone coverage.
When playing in the slot, Collins has thrived in zone coverage. Watching the curl and the flats, it allows the safety to worry more of what's in front rather than what's running behind him.
Moving Collins down a level shouldn't stop WFT from drafting a cover 'backer. It does buy them time, though, to not reach for a talent that fills a void.
In today's NFL, "WILL" backers need to have the hitting style of a linebacker but the speed of the safety.
Signed, sealed, delivered, that's Collins (if he's healthy) - and a position move we say Washington needs to consider.
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