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Training Camp Notebook | Rivera dives deeper into Commanders' DE depth


The Washington Commanders' depth at defensive end has been a question throughout training camp, and it will likely be a question until Chase Young returns to the active roster. 

For the past two weeks, the Commanders have been searching for a band-aid among the players at their disposal. They've found two answers in James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill, both of whom have flashed at various points of camp. 

But the Commanders are looking even deeper into the roster to find even more options. 

"We're trying to sort through and see which one of those guys has stepped up," head coach Ron Rivera said. 

There have been a few candidates for fourth defensive end on the depth chart. Will Bradley-King has "done a really nice job," Rivera said, and has been a quality backup pass-rusher. One play saw his swatting a pass from Taylor Heinicke back into the quarterback's face. 

Other players like Bunmi Rotimi and Shaka Toney bring their own unique skill sets to the group. Rivera called Rotimi "a heavy-handed guy" who can be physical at the point of attack. With Toney, Rivera sees a situational pass-rusher with explosion off the line of scrimmage. 

The Commanders also have a veteran option in Efe Obada. Rivera has complimented the defensive end before for his attention to the minor details of his game, but he added to that on Wednesday by praising his position versatility. 

"He can also a play a three-technique in passing situations," Rivera said. 

Final roster cuts are still 13 days away, but the staff has already begun evaluating how it wants the 53-man roster to look. Which, and how many, defensive ends they keep will be a difficult decision. 

Here are some more observations from Wednesday's practice.

-- Jahan Dotson has a quiet camp overall, but he's starting to show a little more of the talent he put on display during OTAs. He had two touchdowns during Tuesday's red zone drills, and he added another on Wednesday during 11-on-11 drills, beating his defensive back down the left sideline before bringing in an arching pass from Carson Wentz in the end zone. Dotson didn't make a catch during the first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, but he's still lived up to the coaches' expectations so far. He'll have plenty of opportunities to make an impression in a game scenario against the Kansas City Chiefs.

-- Cam Sims had a strong practice today. It started with a leaping grab during individual drills, and it ended with him making a leaping grab from Heinicke in the corner of the end zone during two-minute drills. Sims chucked the ball in the air to celebrate, and that was enough for Rivera to call the end of practice. Another player who has had a quiet camp, Sims has been reliable for whoever has thrown him the ball. We'll see if he makes a catch against the Chiefs, but Rivera and the staff are already impressed with his work ethic.

-- The Commanders continue to experiment with their options on who will return kicks this season. Players like Alex Erickson and Dax Milne have been two of the constants during special teams drills, but Antonio Gibson was also catching kicks today as well. Rivera correctly pointed out that Gibson was "very dynamic in college" as a return specialist. He returned 23 kicks for Memphis in 2019, recording 647 total yards and a touchdown. Time will tell whether he will actually be used in that role, but his speed would be of use to give the offense better field position.

-- Jamin Davis made an impact play during Tuesday's practice with a pop fly interception during 11-on-11 drills. Today, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said he has seen more certainty and confidence in the second-year linebacker. He understands where he belongs, Del Rio said, which was why he was able to make his interception on Tuesday. He's been locked into improving upon his rookie season, and Del Rio added that the unit will need him to play well this season.

-- With the Commanders traveling to play a perennial championship contender like the Chiefs, Bobby McCain is excited to play against such a tough opponent, even if it is only the preseason. The Commanders know what kind of firepower they have, McCain said. Tyreek Hill is now with the Miami Dolphins, but there are still a bevy of weapons for Patrick Mahomes. The starters won't play long, as is the preseason tradition, but the limited snaps will still provide a chance to measure themselves against what has been one of the better offenses in the league.

-- McCain also took some time to praise some of the younger defensive backs. He can tell that Darrick Forrest is so much smarter, and he has taken a step forward in his communication skills on the field. He called Jeremy Reaves "one of the smartest guys in the back end." Reaves hasn't had many opportunities, but when he gets them, McCain said he will take advantage.

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