There are a few traditions developing at the Washington Football Team’s 2020 training camp.
One of them is Ron Rivera screaming the phrase “PLAY FAST!” just before roughly 85-percent of the snaps that take place. Another is a reporter having to repeat a question because the player or coach didn’t hear them in the Zoom presser, which definitely isn’t awkward for all parties involved.
And yet another is Ronald Darby making some sort of impressive pass breakup, and often times multiple impressive pass breakups, in a given day’s session.
While the first two customs would make for decently compelling blogs, Darby deserves to be at the center of a story, so here he is, at the center of this story — much like he’s been at the center of a lot of deflections and incompletions.
On Sunday, after engaging in some really entertaining matchups with Terry McLaurin, Darby had a chance to reflect on his August success. The corner gave a lot of credit to Ron Rivera’s system, which he cited back in April as a primary reason he wanted to sign with the Burgundy and Gold.
“I love it,” Darby said. “It’s a lot of different things. I’m used to always just being man-to-man 95-, 98-percent of the time. It’s a man defense, but there’s a lot of things you don’t have to worry about. You can play aggressive to certain things and you can have your eyes back on the quarterback on certain things.”
Just before Darby spoke, Ron Rivera held his usual presser and was asked why guys like Darby and Kendall Fuller are so glowing in their reviews of his scheme. The head coach attributed it to one factor, and in doing so, brought up a name that’ll surely catch the attention of fans (and possibly enrage them, too).
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“We ask guys to play with vision,” he said. “We had a guy back in 2013 and 2014 and 2015 who really played with tremendous vision. I’m talking about Josh Norman. He made plays doing it the way that we coached, the way we taught it. … That’s one of the things that we’re stressing, that you play with discipline. You put your eyes where you’re supposed to and you believe what you see.”
So far, Darby’s eyes have been on point and he’s been trusting them to the tune of numerous highlights. Those aren’t the only parts of his body that have been working well in Ashburn, though.
“I feel great,” he said. “Coming off the ACL the year before and going through last season [with the Eagles], I was having a lot of lower muscle problems, like strains. I’ve been taking care of myself this offseason. I had a little bit more time due to the fact of COVID and not having OTAs, so I stayed on top of my body. I feel great.”
Heading into camp, corner, and specifically starting corner opposite of Fuller, appeared like a weak spot on defense. But thanks to Fuller’s consistency and Darby’s rise — plus the fact that those two can roam behind what has been and should be a potent pass rush — that area appears to be coming together really nicely.
Yes, Darby has to prove he can do this through the fall, as injuries have sidetracked what was a promising early career. As long as those are minimized, he’ll maximize his impact on the franchise.
“I feel like this is the perfect fit for me,” he said.
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