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Training Camp Notebook | Diving into Jahan Dotson, Antonio Gibson's possible roles on special teams

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The Washington Commanders have wrapped up another training camp practice, putting them one day closer to their road matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The weather was breezy, and the practice was light on Thursday, but here are the observations from some of the highlights and press conferences from this morning.

-- One of Carson Wentz’s best series came during red zone drills, when he had three catches for three touchdowns. The first was a lob to Jahan Dotson, who kept his feet in bounds near the left corner of the end zone; the second was a pass to the middle of the field to Terry McLaurin; and the third was a catch from Dyami Brown, who made the reception at the 1-yard line and finished the play in the end zone.

-- The third offense was playing against the starting defense today, and the reasoning for it was that Ron Rivera wanted to see how Sam Howell and the rest of the unit would handle it. He was looking for Howell to "step up to the plate" against more difficult competition compared to what he's seen in previous practices and against the Carolina Panthers. It was the chance for Howell to "take it to another level," Rivera said, and "it's one of those things where if you don't throw him there, you never find out."

-- Diving deeper into Rivera's press conference, the head coach said he doesn't have a specific number of snaps in mind for the starters against the Chiefs, but he would ideally like for them to play in most of the first half. That's the natural progression for the starters as they get closer to the regular season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

-- J.D. McKissic and Charles Leno were not at practice today. McKissic was experiencing some tightness in his groin, so the Commanders wanted to be careful with it being so close to gameday. Leno had an excused absence, so he should be back on the field soon.

-- Dotson and Antonio Gibson have received more reps returning kicks, and Rivera described it as "something to think about." The first-round pick does have a history as a return specialist at Penn State, as he had 25 punt returns for 338 yards and a touchdown. Washington knows the kind of talent that both players have in that role, but the priority is making sure they're comfortable fielding kicks. Rivera didn't say for certain whether either player would be returners. Instead, he wants to see how the game unfolds before he makes that decision.

-- With the number of preseason games getting decreased from four to three, that has taken valuable reps away from special team coordinator Nate Kaczor to evaluate his players. To compensate for that, Kaczor has tried to take advantage of the padded practices to get a feel for the intensity of a game. There have also been players in recent practices who are getting special teams reps for the first time, so Kaczor wants to get as many opportunities for them as possible.

-- And now the news that everyone is waiting for: a long snapper update. Kaczor said Camaron Cheeseman had a solid rookie year. He's approaching this year's camp with more calmness, and while the chemistry between Cheeseman, Joey Slye and Tress Way isn't perfect yet, but it has shown signs of improvement.

-- Kaczor called Gibson one of his "Christmas presents" back when the running back was drafted in 2020, but he had to give his gift back to the offense once Gibson started to take on a bigger role. However, what Gibson did in returning kickoffs in college never left Kaczor's mind. That doesn't necessarily mean that Gibson is going to return kicks this season or even against the Chiefs this Saturday, but it does mean that he needs to be ready if his number is called.

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