Coach Ron Rivera has known Luke since the Carolina Panthers signed him as an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame in 2017. Despite Luke’s inexperience — he’s played 15 defensive snaps in the past four years — he projects the position flexibility Rivera prizes. In 2017, Luke practiced as team’s No. 1 nickel back in training camp before suffering a season-ending Achilles’ injury, and two years later, he competed to start at free safety.
“He’s a smart, headsy player,” Rivera told the Charlotte Observer in 2019. “He played some corner, played some nickel for us. Last year we kept him on the practice squad, working at the safety position, and he’s shown some aptitude for it.”
In Washington, it seems likely Luke will be used in one of two roles. He could step in at free safety if the team doesn’t like what it sees from Troy Apke, who might start at free safety because of Deshazor Everett’s ankle injury. (Apke started the season at free safety but was benched during a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4.) Or he could return to nickel corner as an alternative to Jimmy Moreland, who has sometimes struggled in coverage this season.
Luke made his NFL debut last season, in Week 9 at the Green Bay Packers. He played special teams only until the end of the year, when he received a handful more snaps. He totaled six tackles and zero passes defensed.
If Luke plays free safety, it will mark Washington’s latest attempt at a position it has struggled to solve since Rivera arrived. In the past 11 months, the team has tried Sean Davis, Apke and Everett, and Rivera recently left open the possibility Jeremy Reaves could get a shot there as well. Last month, the team offered veteran free safety Eric Reid a spot on the practice squad but not the active roster. Rivera said he wanted to reward young players, such as Reaves and rookie Kam Curl, but this week, he maintained Reid is still an option.
“I don’t think that ship has necessarily sailed,” the coach said. “We’ll see what happens. Like I told you guys, we’ve got some young guys who we want to watch. We can go forward from there.”