Ron Rivera feels good about cornerback Benjamin St-Juste

Early in the season, it looked like one of the items on Washington’s shopping list in 2023 would be a No. 1 cornerback. William Jackson III was signed to be that guy, but he struggled badly and was traded.

Kendall Fuller remains a quality cornerback but does not often travel with the opposing team’s top wide receiver.

That left second-year cornerback Benjamin St-Juste.

The Commanders used the 6-foot-3 St-Juste in the slot throughout the summer and early in the season. However, Jackson’s struggles and injuries led Washington to move St-Juste back to the outside, and he’s quietly becoming a breakout star.

In Washington’s Week 9 game against the Minnesota Vikings, St-Juste lined up opposite star wide receiver Justin Jefferson for the entire game. Jefferson caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown on the first drive. On each of those catches, St-Juste had terrific coverage, but Jefferson won the battles, and Kirk Cousins had excellent ball placement.

From then on, the two went at one another all game long. Jefferson had only three receptions for the rest of the game; unfortunately for Washington, he beat St-Juste on a 47-yarder during Minnesota’s final scoring drive. But he also broke up passes in the end zone, one against Jefferson in the fourth quarter.

The most pivotal moment of their one-on-ones was early in the fourth quarter. Jefferson and St-Juste were jostling for position, both pushing off when Cousins fired a ball in Jefferson’s direction. St-Juste picks it off and returns it for a touchdown.

However, officials called pass interference on St-Juste, giving the Vikings a first down on a critical 3rd-and-11. It was undoubtedly a questionable call, as both were making contact. Head coach Ron Rivera strongly disagreed with the call.

On Monday, Rivera spoke to the media and discussed St-Juste’s development. He’s extremely pleased with the corner he once compared to former All-Pro Charles “Peanut” Tillman.

“Well, for the most part, it was the design,” when asked if it was by design for St-Juste to follow Jefferson. “It was to try and match him up on him. They had a really good matchup. They really did. Jefferson’s a special player, and we felt pretty good about Benjamin’s opportunities, and he made a couple of plays that helped us. Jefferson got a couple of plays that got us. I thought he fought and battled his butt off and did the best he could, and the truth of matters, we feel pretty comfortable and pretty good about him.”

Rivera was still upset about the pass interference penalty.

“I don’t agree necessarily agree with the pass interference called on him,” he said. “I’m asking for an explanation and interpretation just so we can go forward with it.”

Rivera then offered a detailed explanation of the pass interference.

“I struggle with the whole term hand fighting because we don’t have it in the glossary, in the rule book,” he said. “There’s no real true definition of it, so it’s all about interpretation. There were a couple of things. When you watch as the route develops, Jefferson tries to use his hands to get a little separation, and Benjamin reaches back and punches him with his, and then when they both stop and turn, they’ve both got their hands on each other. And then when the ball gets thrown, it’s thrown really toward Benjamin more than toward Jefferson. You know what I mean? Cause it hit Benjamin, I believe on the left side, which was away from, from Jefferson. So, again, it’s how the play is interpreted, and that’s kind of what I’m asking for in terms of the explanation.”

Some agreed with the call; others didn’t. It’s like Rivera said; it’s open to interpretation.

Anyway, the Commanders are onto Philadelphia, and they may finally have their No. 1 corner in the 2021 third-round pick from Minnesota.

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire