In the thick of the offseason doldrums, there’s not much to do other than speculate, or try to elaborate on the small bits of information that dribble out about the team. In this piece, I’ll be looking at
four three* young players I think will take their game up a notch in 2023.
In some cases, that will mean simply becoming reliable depth, or potential quality starters, but in at least one case, I think we may see an ascension into the Pro Bowl-caliber player range. Let’s start there.
* This write up originally included Armani Rogers, who will now have to wait for the 2024 edition.
Darrick Forrest (S)
When “DaFo” was drafted in the 5th round, out of Cincinnati in the 2021 draft, I was expecting that it was primarily for his value as a special teams player. And, in 2021, that’s what it was. As a rookie, Forrest played 82% of special teams snaps, and only 5% of defensive snaps.
Turns out, I should have been paying closer attention.
We don't talk about #Cincinnati DS Darrick Forrest Jr. enough. Fluid, speedy athlete with excellent man coverage skills, runs the alley well from depth, ball hawk. 5 of 6 career interceptions came over last 2 years.— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) April 10, 2021
All over special teams too, valuable day 3 option in the draft. pic.twitter.com/zVmkPcUOJv
In 2022, Forrest blew up onto the scene and was an absolute menace in the deep secondary. Starting at safety from the beginning of the season, Forrest was in on 81% of the defensive snaps (and his special teams snaps dropped to 24%).
Forrest ended the season with 4 interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 88 tackles, and did it with a sufficiently bruising style that he earned the nickname “Forrest Thump” from some admirers in the fanbase.
I'm up. Might as well look at the tape. Darrick Forrest's fumble-causing hit on Jonathan Taylor. Bobby McCain charges toward LOS pre-snap but overruns the hole. Taylor sees space, cuts right. Forrest immediately adjusts for the tackle. The fumble in the RZ is a fantastic bonus. pic.twitter.com/ENtLXSXjKJ— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) October 31, 2022
To an extent, Forrest played in strong safety Kam Curl’s shadow last year, as a result of Curl having played well for three straight years now. However, by the end of last season, I was left with the distinct feeling that Forrest’s ceiling is actually the higher of the two, and that he’s going to end up being the more valuable player in the coming years.
I stand by that, and it’s not intended as a slight against Curl, who has been an impressive talent by any metric. This year, I think the duo of Forrest and Curl gets recognized as one of the best in the league, and Forrest (and, perhaps, Curl) will get strong consideration for post-season honors.
Khaleke Hudson (LB)
Last season, I thought that, with Landon Collins departure, Hudson might be a leading candidate to take on the Buffalo Nickel position in his absence. That role ended up falling primarily to Kam Curl, and Hudson’s role was largely confined to special teams for nearly all the season, until the final game, against the Cowboys, where he played 100% of defensive snaps at linebacker.
Phil Hughes did a nice evaluation of Hudson’s film in that game (above), and concluded his review with the following remarks: “This kid’s got some skills, man. He should not be rotting away on the bench. I mean, what the hell, why are we not seeing more of this kid?”
Is this yet another case of Rivera and Del Rio having a badly delayed reaction to getting a young, promising player into the lineup in a timely fashion?
Hughes speaks to the fact that Hudson is a smaller-sized LB in his review: “What more can you ask for from a guy that stands 6’ and weigh 220 lbs? Now once [offensive linemen] get their hands on him, you know, they might be able to manhandle him, but getting their hands on him is not an easy battle, and he makes a lot of tackles, and sheds a block, makes a tackle, and it seems like that’s what he does 90% of the time when he’s up against the run.”
Much of the fanbase has been baffled that Washington has done very little at linebacker other than replace Cole Holcomb this offseason. But if Washington’s braintrust sees Hudson as ready to make leap into a more active role on defense, that would go a long way towards explaining their relative inaction at the position over the past few months.
I expect Hudson to firm up his role as a third linebacker this season.
Sam Cosmi (G)
By late October of last season, I had seen enough of Sam Cosmi at tackle and was arguing that he should have been moved to right guard for a prolonged stint.
Instead, the coaching staff jerked him around for the rest of the season, playing him some at guard, and some at tackle, culminating in a highly forgettable performance at right tackle in the team’s final game, against the Cowboys, where - between Cosmi and Trai Turner - it looked like the right side of the offensive line had decided to call out sick for game 17.
Sam Cosmi: “To be completely honest, couldn’t tell you why” the team had him rotate at guard and tackle. “It was definitely a roller coaster… It was a lot of learning this year for sure”— Pete Hailey (@PeteHaileyNBCS) January 9, 2023
This season, with the addition of Andrew Wylie at right tackle, I’m relatively confident Washington is preparing to deploy Cosmi at right guard as long as injuries don’t prompt an emergency re-shuffling, and I expect Cosmi to have his best season in Washington as a result.
Which of these players do you expect to show the biggest improvement this coming season?
I don’t expect any of them to improve much.