ASHBURN, Va. (AP)Emmanuel Forbes did not envision getting benched a handful of games into his first NFL season.
Yet that’s exactly what happened last weekend to the rookie cornerback, a first-round pick the Washington Commanders had big expectations for.
Now it’s unclear what the plan is for Forbes this Sunday at the New York Giants, as the coaching staff weighs a young defender working through growing pains against wanting to win and contend for a playoff spot.
“There is a certain spot where it is about winning,” coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday in the aftermath of Forbes playing zero snaps in a victory at Atlanta that got the Commanders back to .500 at 3-3.
“We know what he can bring to the table. We’ve seen it. And so it’s about trying to find that balance of you get to a certain situation and say: ‘You know what, let’s sit him for a while. Let’s let him grow.’”
Forbes, the 16th pick in the draft out of Mississippi State, is off to a rocky start to his professional career.
He was thrown at 27 times through his first five games, allowing 20 catches for 401 yards. Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles picked him apart, taking advantage of Forbes’ assignment to cover A.J. Brown to the tune of nine catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns.
It didn’t get much better in an embarrassing home loss to Chicago, leading Rivera to sit Forbes late against the Bears and ultimately for the entire game against the Falcons. Forbes called watching from the sideline a learning experience – and something that is not uncommon for a young defensive back.
“Like Coach Rivera said, I need a reset,” Forbes said. “I think that worked out perfectly. Now hopefully come in this week and just get better each day.”
Having “no clue” what’s next, Forbes is just trying to practice and prepare for whatever, downplaying the situation by saying the uncertainty doesn’t bother him. The 22-year-old’s teammates are trying to help, too.
“We just work hard to keep his confidence high,” fourth-year safety Kam Curl said. “That’s the main thing you need as a DB, to have confidence, and we just make sure that’s not wavering because he’s a first-round pick. You know he can make plays, and it’s going to come.”
Forbes has also sought advice from players around the league, who told him they’ve experienced similar struggles.
“It’s just going to happen sometime in your career,” Forbes said. “It shows how you are as a person when it happens if you’re going to lay down and just take it or you’re just going to keep coming to work and getting better.”
Rivera, now in his fourth season coaching Washington, likened the situation to how the team handled linebacker Jamin Davis, a first-round pick in 2021 who had his role reduced in his rookie year and is now a full-time starter.
“The young man’s really come a long way, he’s done some really good things for us and we’re pretty excited about who he’s become,” Rivera said. “I would say the same thing about Emmanuel: It’s going to take a little bit of time.”
One problem is how much time the Commanders want to dedicate to Forbes developing on the field, compared to playing veterans who might be safer choices.
Danny Johnson had a nice game playing in Forbes’ place at Atlanta, breaking up a fourth down pass in the final minutes and making four tackles.
Johnson could be right back in that same role against the Giants, or Forbes might get a chance to show growth against an offense that hasn’t scored a touchdown in three games.
No matter what, Forbes is trying to stay even keel and not let the benching affect his mindset.
“There’s always going to be ups and downs in this football game, especially playing (defensive back),” Forbes said. “This is always a learning experience, so I’m just embracing it and I’m ready to play.”
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