Rain of praise for Benjamin St-Juste

Rain of praise on Benjamin St-Juste

BID À DAY

ASHBURN, Virginia | After training under the generous fall rays, Benjamin St-Juste calmly shows up at his locker in the Washington Commanders locker room. While music blares, some indulge in a pocket game or others taunt each other in a friendly racket, it is rather on the ground that the Quebecer is making noise this season. /p>

The team trains in the small town of Ashburn, about 45 minutes from Washington. Although the organization is swimming in turmoil with a disputed owner in Dan Snyder, the place is serene.

The beautiful fall colors are still in full view and the team, which won its three last games to bring his record to 4-4, has had some good moments that calm the game. Tumult or not, St-Juste is equal to himself. Relaxed, in control, with the mind not wandering from the lens.

“I only go on social media to talk to my family and friends. It helps block out some outside noise. The team in general is doing a good job of focusing on football,” he said when the Journal representative approached him.

< strong>A crucial role

This phlegm serves St-Juste wonderfully this season. After a promising rookie campaign, but cut short by injuries, the cornerback is really taking off in his second season. 

According to the Pro Football Reference website, opposing quarterbacks have completed 44% of passes thrown in the direction of the Montrealer for a single touchdown, compared to 65% last season. 

It is even managed to take the place of William Jackson III, a free agent hired at a high price last year and traded to the Steelers earlier this week.

“We gave Benjamin an opportunity and he made exceptional work,” praised head coach Ron Rivera on Wednesday to justify the transaction.

These are clearly not mere flattering words from a coach. Nobody in the NFL earns free playing time and St-Juste has taken part in 88 % of his defensive plays, including 100 % in the last three weeks. 

Benjamin St-Juste celebrated after stopping receiver Darnell Mooney at the goal gate to give the Commanders the win over the Bears on Oct. 13.

“He really came back hungry”

His teammates note remarkable progress.

“We have really seen him grow. We see that the game has slowed down for him. Coaches ask a lot of him and he never disappoints. 

“Even when he had just arrived last year, he rarely found himself in bad shape. The difference is that sometimes it just takes a bit of experience to understand more about what's going on and to feel things. He's really come back hungry this season,” veteran safety Bobby McCain told us.

Beside him, fellow safety, Kamren Curl, could only nod.

“He showed versatility and proved to be a very intelligent player. He knows how to adjust during a game and it's cool to see him evolve so quickly,” he said.

The Quebecer helped hold the Packers receivers failed in a Commanders win on October 23.

Confidence

If St-Juste's performance on the field has something to please his teammates, others also appreciate him for what he is in everyday life. This is the case of tight end Logan Thomas, one of his good friends on the team.

“When he arrived he was pretty quiet. He was doing his little business. It's still a bit like that, but now that he's more comfortable, we see him slowly coming out of his shell. He comes to work every day without complaining. He's nice to be around because he's positive and he's never the one who's going to drag you down,” said the burly fellow.

St-Juste and Thomas see each other frequently since their two wives are also very close.

“I was invited to his wedding and saw him surrounded by his friends. We see that when it is really comfortable, its personality is expressed. He shows a lot more confidence. You can feel it when you meet him, it sweats from him. As a player, he has all the intangibles to become as good as he wants to be,” he says.

Thirst to learn

< p>When St-Juste joined the team after being selected in the third round of the draft last year, it was veteran cornerback Kendall Fuller who took him under his wing. He is delighted to see him blossom and play such an important role in his second year in the NFL.

“We knew he had a good build, but the most important thing is that he immediately showed his willingness to learn. This is still the case this year. He took his opportunity when she showed up. 

” Benji may never be the loudest guy, but we all know what a guy he is. true competitor “, he underlined.

Benjamin St-Juste may only be 25 years old, but listening to his teammates, one thing is clear: the Quebecer who is gone by far is already part of the furniture in Washington. 

“He can become a special player”

Benjamin St-Juste is about to make a quarterback sack at the expense of Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars on September 11.

“Ben has all the tools to be a great cornerback in this league for a long time.” These words are not those of a simple admirer of Benjamin St-Juste, but rather those of his position coach and himself a former defensive back in the NFL, Chris Harris.

The Newspaperspoke to Harris outside the Commanders locker room as Bob Marley spat the famous chorus from the hit Three Little Birds into the speakers. 

The lyrics “  Every little thing is gonna be all right » sounded like premonitory writings about the Quebecer's career.

“If he continues to work as he does, he can become a really special player”, salivated Harris.

Unique assets

The latter, after an eight-year career as a player with the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers, is in his third season as defensive backs coach in Washington and his ninth year in the league. As soon as he started talking about his Montreal protege, he couldn't suppress a smirk.

“The combination of his physicality and his speed is very rare. 6'3″ cornerbacks don't grow in trees. Guys of his size don't often have the same explosion and lateral movements,” he explained.

Versatility appreciated

Before this season, St-Juste played mainly as an outside cornerback. 

During the last offseason, the Commanders moved him inside, closer from the line of scrimmage. A change that may seem minor to newcomers, but which has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.

“It's not nearly as easy as people might think. It forced him to learn all about what goes on in our system and improved his football IQ even more,” said Chris Harris. moreover pleased St-Juste, who sees him as an additional asset in his game.

“I really haven't reached my peak. Whether it's playing indoors or outdoors, I'm learning every week. I'm still young, I've only been here a year and a half,” the cornerback said modestly.

“It's all brought more versatility to my game. me a more useful player.”

Two personalities

If there is unanimity in the locker room to say that St-Juste is discreet nature, Chris Harris still sees two very different Benjamins.

“He is the most reserved of the group of defensive backs. I often have lunch with him in the morning at our premises. We talk a lot and I'm starting to know him well on a personal level. He is a reserved person, but he is whole. »

« On the field, he does not play at all with the same attitude. It's like seeing two different guys. When he makes a big play, he gets very excited and he shows his emotions. » 

Good words from Del Rio

Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has been coaching in the NFL for 24 years now. It's clearly not his first rodeo and he said he was impressed when asked to describe Benjamin St-Juste's growth as a player. “He has matured a lot, after a great off-season. We immediately saw that he was a different player and when we played him inside, he never batted an eyelid. We took him outside and he went about his business without saying a word. He is a professional who works the right way and who gives us good football,” he said.

Big visit from the Vikings

It's an important visit coming up for Benjamin St-Juste and the Commanders this weekend in Washington. The Vikings (6-1) will be there with the prolific receiving trio of Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and KJ Osborn. “I will be very busy!,” smiled St-Juste. This is the kind of duel you want to experience as a cornerback. This is a team that will throw the ball en masse. Jefferson will make plays, Thielen too and me too. We are all top athletes and it will be a good battle. The key will be to keep explosive plays to a minimum. ”

Hurrying forward

The Commanders lost four of their first five games and looked like they were in disarray. Since then, they've had three straight wins, keeping the team alive despite fierce competition in the East Division. “Each team has a different process. Some teams start the year very hot right from the start. For us, it took us longer, but we understood what works and what doesn't work with the type of players we have. We know we have the team to win. Even when you're behind by a touchdown or more, you don't panic because you've come from behind several times,” said St-Juste.