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Four things we learned in first half of Commanders OTAs


It is not easy to learn much about a new team around this time of the year, and everything shown on the field should be taken with a boulder of salt.

As exciting as it is to see Jayden Daniels and the rest of Washington's new players on the field for the first time, most of what they're doing is getting acclimated to the new schemes and practicing techniques. Throws are going to be pristine, routes are crisp and interceptions come in bunches on certain drills, but contact is reduced to a minimum. Although it's tempting to jump to conclusions, a good or bad performance from a player carries little significance with how the team will fare in September.

Still, this is the time of perpetual optimism, when every team has everything in front of them. So, let's focus on the things we did learn during the first half of OTAs.

1. Jayden Daniels looks the part.

Daniels hasn't faced any semblance of an NFL pass rush yet. Defenders can't be as physical with wide receivers during seven-on-seven drills as they would be in pads, and he's spending most of his time working with the second group.

There's still been little, if anything, that would suggest the Commanders made the wrong decision taking him with the No. 2 pick.

Daniels, known for being a dangerous mobile quarterback, hasn't done much scrambling outside of a few individual periods that require it. Most of his time has been spent in the pocket, where his poise and command of the offense has drawn praise from his veteran teammates.

"I think he really moves well, throws the ball well and for a young guy that's coming in, seems to really like command the offense and I think that's important," Marcus Mariota said last week. "I think that's very important in the quarterback position to be able to like stand in front of these guys, especially older players, and kind of nail it and say, 'I got this, I got it figured out.'"

And while most things have looked routine from the rookie, there have been a few highlights from seven-on-seven drills, the best of which being a dime to Jahan Dotson down the right sideline.

"He's a stud," Luke McCaffrey said. "I know he's one heck of a quarterback and a lot of fun to play with from a personality standpoint. I've had a blast in these 24 hours with him."

Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders taking the field for the second week of OTAs.

2. Luke McCaffrey doesn't operate like a rookie.

Let's focus on McCaffrey for a minute, because Daniels isn't the only rookie who has looked impressive in practice.

Perhaps McCaffrey's maturity should be expected; after all, most of his family were athletes and all his brothers had various stints in the NFL. Whether it's in the genes or not, his efficiency has stood out among the rest of the receivers.

"I really like his story," said offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. "He dealt with some adversity, and he kept fighting. And he loves football, like, loves it. He doesn't care if he plays quarterback, running back, whatever. He just wants to play. And that's fun to be around."

McCaffrey is relatively new to being a wideout after starting his college career as a quarterback, though you wouldn't know it based on how he has looked in practice. He runs his routes with efficiency, with head coach Dan Quinn saying that "he understands leverage to go."

And McCaffrey showed that he knows how to be available for explosive plays. He made an end zone grab on a pass from Jeff Driskell after getting behind Percy Butler, earning some praise from tight end Zach Ertz.

It's still early, but McCaffrey continues to progress in training camp, he could earn a larger role in the offense.

3. Bobby Wagner has already established himself as a leader.

Aside from giving the Commanders a much-needed upgrade at linebacker, one of the biggest advantages of having Wagner on the roster is how much he can teach his younger teammates. Though they've only been together for about a month, they're already benefiting from having the nine-time Pro Bowler around.

"It's like a treasure box with him," fellow linebacker Frankie Luvu said of Wagner. "You never know what you're gonna get with him."

Quinn, who has known Wagner since their days together with the Seattle Seahawks, said Wagner has a good blend of leading by example and speaking up when the situation calls for it. Wagner likes to lead his way, but he'll also pull teammates to the side and give them tips. That isn't limited to defensive players, either. Guard Sam Cosmi asked him how Wagner was able to guess that he was pulling on a play, despite him giving his best effort to hide it.

One of the areas Wagner has been the most helpful in is showing the rookies and second-year players how to ensure that they will have long careers.

"There is a process that they follow and that's a really important role for somebody just entering in," Quinn said. "We're going to be playing football for a long time and so make sure this is how I warm up, this is how I do things to take care of my body. This is how I study. And so those processes are really important."

4. Players are getting moved around a lot.

Quinn made it clear during one of his media availabilities before practice that no one should put much stock into a "depth chart," which players are working with the first group or where they are positioned on a play.

Sure enough, starters and backups alike have moved all over the field, whether it's Emmanuel Forbes Jr. going back and forth between starter and backup to the myriads of receiver combinations that have worked together during seven-on-seven drills. There's a reason Quinn wants to see his players in different spots other than their original duties; he wants to get an accurate gauge of everything they can do.

"Can a safety come down to play Dime? Can a tight end split out wide? Those are things that it takes time through training camp," Quinn said. "One player may be able to, another player may not. And so, it does take a little bit of exploring, but that's like our job as coaches to find any unique traits that the players have. And then how would we feature those unique traits and trying to find the things that people can do versus the things that they can't do."

Some of that experimentation has come during the special teams period of practice. Several players, including Forbes, Brian Robinson Jr. and Noah Igbinoghene, have caught kicks when the team runs through the new kickoff rules. Players like Forbes have little to no experience in the role, but the coaches want to see if he can handle the responsibility.

"Although he didn't do it at Mississippi State, that doesn't mean he doesn't have the necessary traits," Quinn said. "So, we got a big deep crew now that we're working people both in punt return and in kickoff return. And so, just like everything, we're trying to find out what unique things a player has and how to feature them."

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