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Minicamp Notebook, Day 3: The Defense Puts On A Show

Bobby McCain runs down the field after grabbing an interception. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
Bobby McCain runs down the field after grabbing an interception. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the opinions of the team.

The Washington Football Team has officially wrapped up minicamp and will take about six weeks off before heading to Richmond for training camp. There were flashes on both sides of the ball, and head coach Ron Rivera decided to close out the week with a little bit of fun.

Washington had one more period left in practice; it was supposed to be a mock of its conditioning test. That's when Dustin Hopkins stepped up and said, "I'll tell you what, coach, if I hit a 50-yarder and split it, let's call it a day."

So, Rivera agreed, and sure enough, Hopkins split the uprights, which caused the entire team to cheer.

"That was kind of cool," Rivera said. "The players really appreciated Dustin coming through for us like that. There is a lot more to come for that."

Here are some observations from the final practice before training camp.

-- The defense was balling out from start to finish to close out minicamp. The linebackers and secondary were grabbing easy interceptions in team drills, starting with the first play of the day on a throw from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Linebacker Khaleke Hudson made the leaping grab before running down the sideline for his second interceptions of the month. Not long after Hudson's play, Bobby McCain had his first of two interceptions as Fitzpatrick had his eyes on the end zone. Justin Phillips had the third, which caused Chase Young to sprint downfield in celebration, and then McCain grabbed the final one of the day.

-- Speaking of Young, the second-year defensive end breezed past Charles Leno Jr. and got in Fitzpatrick's face, which forced the offense to abandon the play. Montez Sweat was also in the backfield, and he jogged back to the huddle yelling, "That's what I'm talking about!" 

-- Rivera mentioned after practice how deep Washington's receiver group has become over the offseason. It had several athletic plays during individual drills, including a grab from Dax Milne that forced him to tap both feet in bounds before stepping out of the back of the end zone. Isaiah Wright, who made some impressions last year as an undrafted free agent, also had a one-handed catch that drew a couple of claps from his teammates.

-- The really impressive catches from the receivers came later on in practice. Taylor Heinicke has been looking at Dyami Brown downfield for the past couple of days, and the two connected again for a 40-yard bomb for a touchdown. Brown beat Benjamin St-Juste on the left sideline and had gotten a couple steps of separation from the cornerback before making the catch over his shoulder. The next one came from Antonio Gandy-Golden, who made a one-handed leaping grab over Troy Apke. Gandy-Golden was known for making contested catches at Liberty two years ago, and now he's showing that off at the next level.

-- It is also worth mentioning that Cole Holcomb laid out for an impressive pass breakup in the middle of the field in team drills. Holcomb has said before that he wants to take another step forward in his third season, and plays like the one below are a good place to start.

-- There have been several things that have stood out to Rivera about the quarterbacks over the past month, specifically how well Fitzpatrick and Heinicke have developed a rapport with the receivers, tight ends and offensive line. Fitzpatrick is listed as the starter, but Rivera thinks there will be a good competition for the spot in training camp. He's looking forward to how it unfolds, and he believes it will push the entire team.

-- Rivera's priority is for his players to be smart during this time in the offseason, but he loves the energy they brough and appreciates the commitment the team has made to being at practice. The vast majority of the roster has been in attendance for the entire offseason workout program with 87 players attending the first day of OTAs. They gave us the kind of work we needed, Rivera said, and the coaches were able to get all of their installations done over the past four weeks.

-- Special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor provided an update on long snapper Camaron Cheeseman*,* who is just starting his work with Hopkins and Tress Way. It has not been perfect, as should be expected from a rookie, but he is off to a good start. A large portion of what the three have been focused on is developing strong chemistry. In terms of personality, Cheeseman is exactly the kind of person Kaczor was expecting to get in the sixth-round pick. On the field, Kaczor is looking for Cheeseman to continue developing the three things he looks for in long snappers: someone who can put the ball in the right location with the laces in the correct spot and a high spin rate.

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