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Practice report | Donovan Jeter excited to add skill set to Commanders front

Michigan defensive lineman Donovan Jeter (95) and linebacker Michael Barrett (23) tackle Penn State running back Keyvone Lee (24) during an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa.on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
Michigan defensive lineman Donovan Jeter (95) and linebacker Michael Barrett (23) tackle Penn State running back Keyvone Lee (24) during an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa.on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Ron Rivera had a unique description of the recently signed Washington Commanders defensive tackle Donovan Jeter: he's a "space-eater." 

"Big, stout, physical young man more so than anything else," Rivera said of Jeter to reporters. "I like his first-step quickness, his ability to get into the crease and hold the point." 

Depth at defensive tackle became an immediate concern for the Commanders once Phidarian Mathis was placed on Injured Reserve. It did not take long for the Commanders to supply an answer in Jeter, who spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers after playing for the University of Michigan.  

The former Wolverine is looking forward to being that "space-eater" for the Commanders if given the opportunity, but really, he wants to add "whatever they need me to." 

"I really like the defense," Jeter said. "Four out of my five years at Michigan, we played a very similar style where we're attacking and getting upfield. So, it feels good to be back in that type of defense."

Jeter, who recorded 38 tackles during his time with the Wolverines, signed with the Steelers in May after going undrafted in April and was one of the team's final cuts of training camp. The two weeks of uncertainty were rough, he said. He was still training, but there was always the thought of whether a team would ever call.

Eventually, a team did call, but it was actually the Chicago Bears who reached out to him first, wanting to sign him to their practice squad. He was about 10 minutes from his hotel in Chicago when his agent told him that Washington wanted to sign him to their active roster.

"There was a lot going through my mind, but I just tried to play every day and just stayed ready when I did get that call."

The Washington Commanders have wrapped up Thursday's practice as they prepare for their Week 2 matchup against the Detroit Lions. Check out the top photos from the afternoon. Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders

Although his time in the NFL has been short, he has already taken the time to learn from experienced veterans like Cameron Heyward about nuances of the game

"Everybody in this locker big and strong, but technique is, I think, the biggest separator."

For now, Jeter's primary focus is learning the Commanders' scheme, which is a challenge that comes with being with a new team for just a few days. All defenses around the league have similarities, he said, so the terminology is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome.

"I'm looking forward to it," Jeter said. "I'm a pretty quick study, so hopefully by Sunday, I'll get the call sheet down."

And if he still needs help on Sunday, assuming he is active against the Lions, he knows he can rely on his new teammates.

"I'm going to look over at [Daron] Payne or [Jonathan] Allen and hope that they help me out," Jeter said.

Here are some other notes from Thursday's practice.

-- Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had a word to describe Payne's performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars: "sensational."

"I think he was an excellent football player. Another guy that's had a tremendous offseason. I thought he was dominant in the first game."

-- There is a possibility that Lions running back D'Andre Swift will not play against the Commanders in Week 2, as he was listed as a nonparticipant on Wednesday and Thursday. However, Del Rio and the defense will be ready for the playmaker with Del Rio calling him "as talented a player in the league at that position."

"I think he's a very, very good runner, excellent contact balance, good speed, understands how to set up blocks. He can make people miss; he can run away from people. I have a lot of respect for him."

-- Brian Robinson continues to make progress in his recovery from multiple gunshot wounds. He was on a stationary bike Wednesday, and on Thursday he was doing agility drills. Robinson still has a long way to go, but his progress is certainly incredible.

-- Offensive coordinator Scott Turner thought Carson Wentz played well in his debut with the team. He made the right decisions for the most part, the obvious exceptions being the interceptions on back-to-back plays. Still, Turner said that "anytime you throw four touchdown passes, it's a pretty good deal."

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