It is no secret that the Washington Commanders plan to get a better look at their younger players once they take the field against the Dallas Cowboys this weekend. With nothing to play for in the immediate future, the coaches want to see how much their less-experienced pieces on the roster have learned in their first NFL season.
Ron Rivera is confident in the young core that Washington has built during his tenure, but he only called out one player by name.
“Chris Paul is a young man we want to take a really good look at," the head coach said during his Wednesday press conference.
It should not be a surprise to anyone who has listened to Rivera speak over the past few months that he mentioned the seventh-round pick. It has become a common occurrence for Rivera to highlight Paul, unprompted, as someone who could be an important part of Washington's offense.
There is a strong possibility that Paul will be active for the first time this season, and he is excited about the opportunity to show what he can do.
"I just think about the entire season of development and being in a really great room and being able to learn from a lot of the older guys about technique and fundamentals and stuff on the field and off the field," Paul said.
The Washington Commanders continued their work to get ready for their final game of the season against the Dallas Cowboys. Check out the top photos from the afternoon. Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders
Paul, the 230th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, was a three-year starter at Tulsa with 28 starts in 32 games, according to his bio page on the Hurricanes' website. While he specializes in playing guard, he started games at right tackle, left guard and right guard. He was praised by analysts for his ability to finish blocks and with solid hand placement, and he showed off some of that during training camp.
Despite Washington's issues with injuries on the offensive line, Paul has yet to be active for a game. But do not confuse that with disappointment from the staff. In fact, Rivera heaped praise on him in November because of how Paul was learning and understanding the offense.
"He's a young man that I really do think as he continues to grow, he's gonna have a bright future here," Rivera said. "He's smart. He understands the game. He's athletic, very athletic, big man. Just some little detailed things that he's gotta show up, but his time is gonna come."
Paul has leaned on the veteran offensive linemen to offer their expertise.
"They're able to give you tips on what to expect and certain types of looks against what to do versus certain defensive fronts," Paul said. "It's much more detailed than a lot of people think. It's just great to get wisdom from them."
One thing that has been a change for Paul is how the quarterback drops back. In college, the drop back distance is much shorter, so he could allow defensive linemen to rush around the pocket. So, in the NFL, Paul has had to tweak some of his tendencies.
"Stuff as simple as staying square while you're setting is really important from an offensive line standpoint," Paul said.
That works has been noticed, too, and the praise is not just coming from Rivera. Washington's defensive linemen have spoken to the head coach about how impressed they are with him.
"They talk about him as being a guy that can lock you up," Rivera said. "And they've told me unsolicited, they've come to me and said, 'Wow, coach, we gotta keep an eye on this kid.'"
Paul will face a difficult task against the Cowboys this weekend. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has orchestrated a unit that is one of the best in the league with a strong pass rush. What's more, the front is known for its movement and stunts.
It will be a good chance for Paul to show why the team has been so pleased with his progress.