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Jayden Daniels 'willing to work and put everything out there on the line' for Commanders

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. LSU won 32-31 in overtime. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. LSU won 32-31 in overtime. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

The Washington Commanders did a good job of not showing their hand. While there was an abundance of speculation and guesstimations as to who they would pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, there were never any real hints on which direction they would go.

So, the rest of the NFL, and the actual pick himself, had to wait for the commissioner to call his name. For Jayden Daniels, it was worth the wait.

"My childhood dream came true," Daniels said. "I'm blessed to be here and be able to hear my name called."

The Commanders have been in dire need of an answer at quarterback, not just for the last few months, but for the better part of two decades spanning three team names. Though Daniels is far from being the missing piece that will lead Washington to the playoffs, he is the most important one as general manager Adam Peters and coach Dan Quinn try to recalibrate the franchise.

Daniels is already embracing that responsibility and his role on the team.

"I'm here now," Daniels said. "I can't wait to get to work."

Check out the top photos of Washington Commanders quarterback Jayden Daniels from his days at LSU and Arizona State. (Photos via The Associated Press)

Daniels comes to Washington after one of the most successful careers for a college quarterback in recent memory. He's the first player in FBS history to throw for at least 12,000 career passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards. That five-year stint at LSU and Arizona State was highlighted by a stellar senior season with the Tigers, as Daniels hit career-highs in completion rate (72.2%), passing yards (3,812) and passing touchdowns (40).

While Daniels was a proficient pocket passer, his ability to hurt defenses with his legs when plays break down -- something Quinn has often highlighted as a key quality for modern quarterbacks -- is what makes him such a unique prospect. He had 41 runs of at least 10 yards with 565 yards after contact and 51 rushing first downs. He ranked third among 73 Power Five quarterbacks with a rushing grade of 92.4.

Daniels brings that talent to an offense learning a new system under coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. The Commanders never revealed much about their intentions to draft him, but he liked bits they did give him on how they could use him.

"I was pretty the conversation that we had that I was able to come here and fit into the Commanders' team," Daniels said.

Daniels is coming to an offense that is built with a quarterback's development in mind. Several of the coaches, from Tavita Pritchard and David Blough to passing game coordinator Brian Johnson, have some experience developing young signal-callers, particularly those with Daniels' skill set, and guiding them in their careers.

Kingsbury is at the center of it all. He has a long resume of working with some of the best professional and college quarterbacks, including Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, Johnny Manziel, Case Keenum and Kyler Murray.

The track record, Daniels said, speaks for itself.

"Kliff was over there with Kyler [as the Arizona Cardinals' head coach]...and for quite some time, he had Kyler in the MVP conversation. So, I was excited to be able to just chop it up and talk ball with him."

In the months between now and when Peters and Quinn first got hired, the two have been working towards building a team that would put a young quarterback in the best position to succeed. On offense, they've paired players like Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson with veteran playmakers like Austin Ekeler and Zach Ertz. They bolstered the offensive line with Tyler Biadasz and Nick Allegretti, both set to start and improve an offensive line that struggled to protect their quarterbacks in 2023.

Daniels is familiar with the work Peters did with the San Francisco 49ers, who are now perennial playoff contenders thanks in part to the players Peters advocated for. Daniels called Peters "a dude" and has full confidence in Peters' ability to inject the roster with talent.

He can't wait to meet his new teammates.

"I know Jahan previously. We're kind of around the same age. What Terry has done at the next level, you got a great runner back in Brian Robinson and Austin Ekeler, those guys are very explosive players ... I'm just happy to come in and learn how to be a pro."

Daniels knows that he isn't going to have all the answers this early in his career. He's been speaking to 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk multiple times a day, picking his brain for advice on how he can succeed in the league. He's excited to do the same with his new teammates and hear their perspective on how he can help the team.

But Daniels also believes he has some skills that he can offer right now. Asked what the Commanders are getting in him, Daniels said, "A competitor, a leader, but somebody who just wants to win at all costs and help the team win no matter what, because it is team first always."

The Commanders have been waiting for a quarterback to provide stability at the position and lead them to a level of success they haven't experienced in decades. That's a lot of responsibility to put on one person, especially one that turned 23 years old last December, but Daniels won't be asked to do it all because of how the team has been structured over the past few months.

He's willing to do whatever he can to help, though.

"At some point in the future, we'll get this thing turned around," Daniels said. "But...I'm willing to work and put everything out there on the line."

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