The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the opinion of the team.
The weather was slightly cooler, the cicadas were causing plenty of noise, and the Washington Football Team was back on the field for the second day of minicamp.
The competition seemed to be more intense than usual between the offense and defense, as the team added two-minute drills to the schedule. There were no interceptions from the defense, but there were multiple pass breakups that got the unit fired up. On offense, there were flashes of clean execution and players giving extra effort to make contested catches and find open running lanes.
Here are some observations from this morning.
-- Now that Montez Sweat and Chase Young are reunited on the field, things are a little more difficult for the offense to execute plays. Ryan Fitzpatrick was under pressure in team drills during Wednesday's practice, and the pocket collapsed on several occasions. Sweat batted down Fitzpatrick's pass on the first play of practice; it served as a callback to head coach Ron Rivera’s thoughts on Young's impact when he said that development is judged by more than sack totals. He wants to see Young and Sweat cause disruption, and that could mean a sack or anything that positively alters a play.
-- There is a lot to like about Sammis Reyes on the field; it is also clear he has a lot to learn. With that being said, Rivera likes Reyes' commitment to getting up to speed on the professional game. He's dove in head first, Rivera said of Reyes, and it has been fun to watch him grow over the past month. Reyes has also taken to following Logan Thomas, who Pete Hoener sees as one of the top all-around tight ends in the league, everywhere he goes. He was right behind Thomas in line during individual drills, which is a small example of Reyes' willingness to shadow more established players and improve his skillset.
-- It can be easy to forget that Kelvin Harmon is still part of Washington's receivers with all the new additions that have joined the group this offseason. Rivera was excited to see what he could do last season before he tore his ACL during training camp, and Harmon showed why he deserved the optimism. Taylor Heinicke aired out a deep pass to Harmon, who had a defender giving him tight coverage. Harmon used his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame to get just enough separation and make a diving catch, which drew heavy applause from the other end of the field. It is another example of the intense competition that Rivera foresees the receivers will have in training camp.
-- It is not often that a defender can get the better of Terry McLaurin, but that is exactly what third-round pick Benjamin St-Juste did during two-minute drills. Fitzpatrick had moved the offense into the red zone and was looking McLaurin's way on the left sideline. He fired his shot to the third-year pro with St-Just draped all over him. McLaurin got his hands on the ball, but St-Juste knocked it away at the last second, which made the defensive sideline erupt as St-Juste stared him down. That was not the only big play that St-Just made, as he had multiple pass breakups throughout practice.
-- St-Juste may have been the star of the secondary, but Cam Sims put on another show near the end of practice. He beat William Jackson III on a contested pass on the right sideline during two-minute drills. He then topped that with an even more impressive catch on the left sideline -- this time with two defenders covering him. Receivers coach Drew Terrell praised Sims for being "the glue" of the group last season and being able to make plays regardless of where he was on the field. That talent showed itself Wednesday morning, and Sims is already making his case for why he deserves to be on this year's 53-man roster.
-- Young made it clear during his Tuesday press conference: on paper, Washington's defense could be the best in the NFL. Rivera wants his players to focus on what is important over what is interesting, but Young is not the only player who has eyes on being the league's best unit. Cole Holcomb mentioned on an episode of Washington Football Today that the defense talks a lot about being among a Top 5 defense. Jonathan Allen agrees with Young; they and the rest of the unit will have to put in the work to make it happen, but he also sees the talent that Washington has. But paper and pencils do not win football games, Allen said, so it will be up to them to make those expectations a reality.
-- There was more evidence that the running backs are using their talent to open up the offense. Antonio Gibson was the main attraction once again with his burst and vision, and he continued to show that he can be a reliable pass-catcher. He opened up Washington's two-minute drills by getting the ball on three consecutive plays, one of which was an impressive catch over Jeremy Reaves. Peyton Barber capped off the starters' portion of the drills by hauling in a pass near the goal line and ducking under Bobby McCain to get into the end zone.
-- Dyami Brown is trying to be a more versatile receiver, but he is known for being a target on deep throws. The quarterbacks are starting to look at him downfield more often, starting with back-to-back shots from Heinicke to start his portion of team drills. He hauled in the first one down the right sideline with relative ease. Heinicke went back to him on the next play; he was open, but the ball was slightly out of his reach as he dove and tried to save the play. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner mentioned last week that Washington wants to be more explosive on offense. Having Brown make those catches will be a massive step towards that.