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Commanders' veterans begin reporting for 2023 training camp


The wait is over. The Washington Commanders' 2023 training camp has finally arrived. 

On Tuesday, the Commanders' veterans began returning to the team facility in Ashburn, Virginia, to report for the fourth training camp of Ron Rivera’s tenure. For the next month, 90 players will make their case that they deserve to be one of the 53 that will be on the Commanders' initial roster. 

That journey gets kicked off tomorrow during the Commanders' first practice, which begins at 9 a.m. Fans will get their first opportunity to watch practice on Thursday while sitting in the new stands that were installed earlier this offseason.  

To register for your spot at training camp, click here to get your free tickets. 

"We have an exciting and young team hungry to perform for all of our great fans," Rivera said. "We're looking forward to seeing all our fans out at training camp and hope to see y'all here in FedEx come next season."

There is a wave of excitement washing over the Commanders, and most of that doesn't have to do with what will happen on the field. The franchise started a new era with Josh Harris becoming the new Managing Partner, and he is excited to get the franchise headed in a new direction, starting with winning as much as possible on the field.

"This is a big season, and we look forward to learning and watching and seeing what happens," Harris said. "I'm very excited to be spending time with Coach Rivera and his staff and players and understanding what's going on, and I'm very supportive right now of what they're doing."

Rivera has also emphasized the importance of this upcoming season, and he and his coaches have put together a plan they hope will maximize the talent on the field. That began with the hiring of Eric Bieniemy as the team's assistant head coach/offensive coordinator.

Bieniemy set the tone early in OTAs, demanding players perform up to his standards. The team has embraced it, and they are all in on his vision for the offense.

"It's awesome to have someone who holds you to such a high standard," Jahan Dotson said after practice. "He only wants success out of you. That's all he wants to see. He wants to see you succeed at all times."

Quarterback remains the biggest question mark for the Commanders. Last year's gamble with Carson didn't pay off, and while Taylor Heinicke played well at times, it wasn't consistent enough for him to keep the job once Wentz came back from Injured Reserve.

So, the Commanders took the path of a soft reset at the position, naming Sam Howell "QB1" for the offseason and training camp as well as signing Jacoby Brissett. Howell showed promise during Washington's season finale win over the Dallas Cowboys, and he looked impressive for the majority of OTAs and minicamp. He's still learning as a second-year player, but he's shown enough so far for him to remain the incumbent starter.

"Some of the decisions he makes out there are really good," Rivera said. "Some of the other ones, he's still learning, still growing and he's shown improvement and that's probably the biggest thing that we're excited about."

Quarterback isn't the only position that changed on offense. The offensive line went through significant alternations from a year ago with players like Andrew Norwell and Chase Roullier being cut. In their place, the Commanders signed Nick Gates to be the starting center and gave Saahdiq Charles an opportunity to be the starting left guard. They also signed veteran Andrew Wylie to be the right tackle and bumped Sam Cosmi inside to right guard.

The hope is that the shifts will help improve an offensive line that has struggled at times over the last two seasons.

"At the end of the day, you just want your best five to play and so you are gonna put those guys in the best situations that's gonna give us the best opportunity," Bieniemy said.

Defensively, Washington entered the offseason looking to solidify a unit that was one of the best in football last season. There were some areas that needed to be improved upon, particularly with the depth in the secondary. So, the Commanders used their first two picks in the draft to take some of the best defensive backs available in Emmanuel Forbes and Quan Martin.

Forbes was taken to solve Washington's problem with a lack of turnovers in 2022. Forbes broke an FBS record with six interceptions returned for touchdowns in his college career, so it seems like he is the ball hawk Washington has been searching for.

"This guy, this young man fit the bill and he did it at a very high level," Rivera said. "I mean, he did it in the SEC which is just...a notch below the NFL. He played against some big-time receivers, big time quarterbacks. So, this is a guy that fits the bill for us, and we think it's gonna come in and help us and help elevate our defense."

The Commanders also received some reinforcements on the defensive line with Chase Young and Phidarian Mathis returning to the field. Young was absent for the voluntary portion of the offseason but was in Ashburn for mandatory minicamp. It was only a three-day sample size in June, but Young looked like he was back to his old self after missing most of the 2022 season recovering from a knee injury.

"I'm pretty confident though because he looked good," Rivera said. "He really did. I know the doctors were all positive about everything he's done and again, I know part of the reasoning of him not being around is he wanted to really focus in on just that specifically and he wanted to do that."

The same could be said for Mathis, who was ruled out for the season after an injury in Week 1. Mathis will provide valuable depth for the talented Commanders defensive front, and with his ability to hold up blockers, there should be plenty of plays to be made for Washington's linebackers.

"Anybody else probably would have given up on themselves," Mathis said. "Just stayed down, but I stayed in shape, and...I found out that my mental [toughness] was strong."

And speaking of linebackers, Washington has seemingly found its replacement for Cole Holcomb with Cody Barton, who is coming off a standout season for the Seahawks that also featured him being the primary play-caller on the field.

Barton spent most of the offseason working with the second group, but there are high hopes for what he could become.

"We think he's ready to step his game up," Martin said. "He showed that last year, and we're excited about the opportunity to work with him."

While much of the Commanders' roster seems set, there will still be plenty of position battles during camp. They still need an answer at left guard, and someone needs to emerge as the primary kick return specialist.

Fans will need to let training camp play out to get those answers and more, but for now, though, there is one fact that is cause for everyone to celebrate: football is back.

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