- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2021

The difference is the confidence. That’s what Washington defensive backs coach Chris Harris noticed when safety Kam Curl returned to OTAs this offseason after a standout rookie year. A year ago, Curl was an unheralded seventh-rounder who blossomed as a key starter once Landon Collins went down with an injury.

Now? Harris said Curl exudes a “quiet confidence” that says he belongs in the NFL.

“He’s got a ton of confidence,” Harris said Monday, “rightfully so.” 

Curl’s belief in himself hasn’t wavered even as his role in 2021 might not be as clear cut compared to last season. When Collins tore his Achilles, Curl knew he was the starting strong safety and got better as the year progressed. Now that Collins is back, coaches have maintained that Curl could play multiple spots. The two will compete for the starting job, though Washington’s coaching staff has said they’ll play Curl wherever they see fit. 

Curl’s versatility, on paper, is a strength. Washington coach Ron Rivera regularly boasts about creating “position flex” on the roster. For Curl, that could involve strong safety, free safety and even the Buffalo nickel — also known as the slot cornerback, a spot Curl occasionally played as a rookie. 

Still, the flexibility doesn’t guarantee Curl will be on the field more. Washington brought in veteran Bobby McCain as an option for free safety. And Jimmy Moreland, Darryl Roberts and Kendall Fuller could be used in the slot. 

Washington appears to have a plan, but the team needs to see how Curl responds to the competition.

“We expect him to continue to be who he is,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “He’s bright and a good football player and makes good football decisions on the field. He communicates well with his teammates. We just want our guys to work. Put in the work and develop. Roles will be determined. “

Del Rio noted that Curl has experience lining up wherever needed, and he’s right. According to Pro Football Focus, Curl spent 44% of his defensive snaps lined up in the box, 23% as a slot corner, 22% as a free safety, and 11% everywhere else (lined up outside, along the defensive line as a blitzer). 

It was as a strong safety, or box safety, where the 22-year-old particularly shined. His two sacks and three interceptions came in the weeks following Collins’ injury. Curl also showed great instincts, reading and reacting to a play’s development on a dime. Del Rio said Curl blew past expectations.

Neither Curl nor Collins have displayed concern over the overlap that seems to now exist. Collins said he was happy to see Curl’s emergence and didn’t question where he’d fit in. Curl said he wasn’t sweating the uncertainty. 

“Whatever role they got for me, I can play it,” said Curl, who started 11 games in 2020. “Really, I just want to be on the field helping the team out. So when that comes, we’ll cross that bridge.”

Curl said he sees the growth in his game, as well. He added he can anticipate more plays and can react faster when they happen. 

Harrs, meanwhile, maintained Curl being able to play multiple spots will only be a positive.

“It makes you that much more valuable,” Harris said. “When you have the ability to move in, ‘OK, go play nickel, go strong safety, OK, go play dime linebacker.’ He has that versatility. … Not everybody can do that. That’s not a very easy thing to do.”

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