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Jayden Daniels showing command, poise directing Washington's offense


Last Friday was the first time that Jayden Daniels took the field as a Washington Commander, and naturally, most of the attention was directed at the No. 2 overall pick with dozens of cameras and reporters crowding the sideline.

What they saw was a first-round quarterback looking and acting the part, which looked as impressive as it can be for a practice that's devoid of contact and pads. What impressed his coaches, though, were the things more difficult to point out.

There's little to dispute about Daniels talent at this point; it was a driving force behind why the Commanders knew for a while that they wanted to draft him and give a shot at being a franchise quarterback. What they're hoping will set him apart from the 35 quarterbacks that have tried to be the answer for Washington since 1994 is his work ethic, command and poise.

In his first practice of rookie minicamp, Daniels showed the staff that he has all that in spades.

"What you don't see on the tape is how much this guy loves football," said Commanders head coach Dan Quinn. "He works so hard at it. It's one of the things that makes my heart smile about him, just like the type of competitor he is and the way he goes about his business."

Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders' rookies, undrafted free agents and tryout players during rookie minicamp.

Daniels said moments after he was drafted that he doesn't feel any pressure heading into his first NFL season, and he doesn't look like he was lying, based on how he looked in practice.

The 23-year-old appeared comfortable as he got ready for the day with the rest of his teammates. He danced a little before going through the team's stretch routine and chatted with fellow quarterback Sam Hartman. When practice began, though, his demeanor became more serious, delivering on-target throws to his receivers during the individual period and scrambling to avoid simulated pressure.

"You can't take these times for granted the end of the day, it's something that a lot of people work for," Daniels said after practice. "A lot of people aren't able to achieve their dreams, so, you know, God blessed me to be in this position, man, so I'm just happy."

The Commanders ended the day with seven-on-seven drills, and while the outcome of a non-contact drill during the first day of play installation in May isn't an indication of how things will look in September, Daniels looked sharp during his 12 reps, hitting 12 receivers with little difficulty, even laying out a couple of impressive throws to tight end Ben Sinnott and undrafted receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint.

It looked like a good start for Daniels as he begins to digest the playbook for Kliff Kingsbury's scheme. Any NFL playbook, which Daniels called an "encyclopedia," is going to be more complex than what Daniels experienced at Arizona State and LSU, no matter the system. There's a long way to go before Daniels knows it well, even with his study habits that were highlighted during his pre-draft evaluations.

Daniels seems to be taking the challenge in stride.

"It's day-by-day," Daniels said. "Obviously, today was install one. You go out there and just try to master install one. Go back, watch the tape, tomorrow, master install two. As I started getting more reps, I started getting more comfortable but keep building and expanding on that."

His coaching staff took notice of how comfortable he looked with the information after just one day of work.

"I don't know if it was the work he put in, but like the command of everyone else," Quinn said. "And so sometimes as a quarterback, it's not just what you're doing, it's making sure the formation is set. It's starting a motion, it's getting a correction. That's when you know you have full command, not just what your responsibility is here, but what the others are."

That attention to detail showed up on film, too. He would point out if one of his receivers needed to change their splits or whether he needed to change the alignment based on the defense. It's simple stuff, but it shows that Daniels is already starting to take command of the offense.

"That's when you know you really get to make an impact and multiply people around you," Quinn said.

And Daniels' new teammates felt that before they even arrived at the facility. Both Sinnott and third-round pick Luke McCaffrey spent time with him before they were drafted by the Commanders, and aside from the obvious athleticism and arm talent, his ability as a motivator stood out to them.

"He's got all the intangibles," Sinnott said of Daniels, "and he's a natural leader, a guy who brings his teammates together."

Take a look from the war room to the draft stage in Detroit and the touch down in Ashburn as the Washington Commanders take Jayden Daniels with the No. 2 overall pick. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)

"Oh, he's a stud," McCaffrey said. "I was lucky enough to get with him a little bit leading up to this, just being in the same town he was. Being about to do that, get some reps, and being able to get some competition here in seven-on-[seven] was so much fun."

Daniels understands the situation he's in as the highest drafted quarterback Washington has had since Robert Griffin III 12 years ago. "It's a franchise that's eager," he said, and the fans want to see success on the field. Daniels wants to play his part, and the best way to do that is for him to be himself.

Whether it's the seen or unseen actions, the Commanders are pleased with that approach.

"People see real from fake, authentic and who's not," Daniels said. "So just go out there and just be myself. Try to make connections, talk to people. I'm 23. It's a lot of different age ranges in this locker room. So, trying to relate as much as possible. Show them I'm all about the team, I'm all about hard work and I'm just here to get better each and every day."

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