Darrick Forrest took advantage of starting opportunity in win vs. Jaguars

·5 min read

Forrest took advantage of starting opportunity in win vs. Jags originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Commanders' secondary was dealt a brutal blow on Friday afternoon as word became official that safety Kam Curl would miss the team's opener against Jacksonville.

With Curl, one of the Commanders' best defensive players, unable to suit up, Washington turned to second-year safety Darrick Forrest to fill the void.

Forrest delivered. The former Cincinnati standout was all over the field for the Commanders' defense on Sunday, highlighted by a late fourth-quarter interception off Trevor Lawrence that clinched Washington's 28-22 Week 1 victory over the Jaguars.

"I was ready to turn up!" Forrest said postgame of how he felt after the interception.

A fifth-round pick by the Commanders in 2021, Forrest played just 26 total defensive snaps for the club as a rookie. So, it was natural that he felt a few jitters making his first NFL start.

"At the beginning of the game, my energy was going, my adrenaline was rushing," Forrest said. "I was trying to play too fast. I had to slow myself down. I definitely had a little bit of butterflies in my stomach, but it really wasn't [anything] after I started making plays."

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Forrest was able to shed those nerves quickly. In the first quarter, the safety made a pair of tackles that otherwise would've gone for long gains. While plays like that don't necessarily stand out in the box score, they often end up making a huge difference.

Late in the second quarter with the Jaguars trailing 14-3, Jacksonville put together a solid drive and found themselves in the red zone. On second-and-goal, Lawrence looked right and hit running back Travis Etienne in the flat. But as soon as Etienne looked up field, Forrest was there to meet him.

Forrest delivered a perfect, clean strike on the running back, forcing the football loose. Unfortunately for the Commanders, the ball rolled out of bounds before they could recover it. But Forrest's hit certainly got the FedEx Field crowd to its feet and injected another level of energy into Washington's defense.

Lawrence and the Jaguars offense didn't get the message, though. On the very next play, Lawrence attempted to find wideout Zay Jones in the back of the end zone. Forrest was in perfect position and knocked the football away.

Jacksonville would miss the ensuing field goal attempt, ending an impressive drive with no points to show for it.

Late in the fourth quarter, with the Commanders needing one more stop to seal the victory, it was Forrest that came through once again. On third-and-11 from the Jaguars' own 44-yard line, Lawrence chucked a deep pass down the left sideline that fell into the hands of Forrest, who perfectly executed a toe tap along the sidelines after securing the football to complete the interception.

"I was super concerned [getting both feet in bounds]," Forrest said. "It was to win the game."

After limited playing time as a rookie, Forrest arrived this offseason a different player. The growth he made from his rookie season quickly caught the eye of Washington's coaching staff during OTAs and minicamp.

Forrest parlayed a strong offseason into a solid training camp as his progress from the spring carried over into the late summer. With Landon Collins no longer in the fold, Forrest was the player Ron Rivera had pegged to play that Buffalo nickel role. But with Curl out versus Jacksonville, the Commanders moved him to the traditional strong safety position for Week 1. He made the most of his opportunity.

"With Kam not being available, we moved him to the safety position, gave him an opportunity and he just worked it, worked it, and came on top," Rivera said postgame. "And that is what you a want, a guy to come out and make plays.”

"He went out there and made plays he's supposed to make, flying around," Curl added. "It was fun to watch."

Curl was far from the only Commanders player to praise Forrest in the locker room postgame. During Forrest's scrum with the media, several other members of Washington's secondary continued to hype him up while he answered questions. It's clear how beloved No. 22 is in the Commanders' clubhouse.

"These my brothers," Forrest said. "I feed off their energy, they feed off my energy. We're going to keep this energy going."

Even when Curl is healthy to return, Forrest's play on Sunday proved to Washington's staff that he deserves to play on the field, too. How Forrest's role will change when Curl returns remains to be seen, but the second-year veteran made a strong case for himself against Jacksonville.

"Before the game, everyone kept telling me 'let's go, man, this is your opportunity.' You only get one opportunity, you can't miss your shot," Forrest said.

Forrest certainly didn't miss.