Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Minicamp notebook | Ekeler, Ertz have been valuable assets for Daniels


Jayden Daniels dismissed the notion that he is a star quarterback in the NFL. "I'm a rookie," Daniels said after Wednesday's practice, and while he certainly wants to be in the same category as the league's best signal-callers, his focus is on adjusting to the professional game and learning as much as possible.

It helps that he has a few veterans on offense who have been pros for longer than most.

The Commanders began retooling their offense nearly two months before Daniels joined the team, using their available cap space to shore up the offensive line and add depth to thinner position. Tight end Zach Ertz and running back Austin Ekeler were two of the first players they signed, hoping their experience and leadership would help stabilize the unit as they learned Kliff Kingsbury's system.

The two have been valuable assets for Daniels.

"They're a huge help," Daniels said. "Another set of eyes, because they've seen a lot."

"A lot" would be an understatement. As two of the oldest active players at their respective positions, Ekeler and Ertz have appeared in a combined 254 games, accounting for 115 total touchdowns. Ertz is fifth on the Eagles' all-time receiving yards list, while Ekeler has led the league twice in single-season touchdowns.

Aside from passing on some veteran knowledge, having them on the field is a reminder to Daniels that he doesn't have to make every play by himself.

"If you don't like it, check it down to Ekeler and let him do what he does," Daniels said. "Obviously, he's a very good receiver. You got a QB-friendly tight end in Zach that's very smart, very intentional with what he does with his route-running."

Daniels admits he still has much to prove as he prepares for his rookie season, but his approach has earned praise from his more experienced teammates. He arrives to the facility at 5:45 each morning to prepare himself for the day, and he's spending extra time in the meeting rooms to study up on film.

Players like Ertz and Ekeler approve of those habits.

"He really really cares about this thing," Ertz said. "He wants to be as good as he can possibly be. He's working his butt off. I know he's doing a lot behind the scenes to make himself as prepared as possible, working with as many coaches as he can. I've been really impressed so far."

"I'm proud of the strides he's made so far," Ekeler said of Daniels. "He's really embraced the leadership role."

Here are some more observations from Wednesday's practice.

-- We have more movement on the offensive line. On Tuesday, it was Cornelius Lucas who spent most of his time as the starting left tackle. On Wednesday, it was third-round pick Brandon Coleman's turn at the position. It's worth noting that the Commanders have tried multiple players at that spot, so Coleman getting the reps does not mean he is guaranteed to win the job outright. Still, it was a good opportunity for the rookie to see how he stacked up against starting NFL defensive linemen.

-- Armani Rogers spent the past year recovering from a season-ending injury, but he's fully healthy now and ready to prove that he deserves a roster spot with the new regime. He made an impressive catch at the start of 11-on-11 drills fighting through some contact to haul in a grab near the middle of the field.

-- It looks like the running back room is mostly set, but there are a few players on the roster who are trying to push for a spot. One of those is undrafted rookie Michael Wiley, who had a few solid plays in team drills. He managed to cut through the defense on a draw, and while contact was limited, he showed good vision as he followed his blocks and maneuvered around defenders.

-- For the second day in a row, Daniels was working with the starting offense during 11-on-11 drills. Daniels still has a long way to go before he is named the starting quarterback, but the fact that he's been working with the first group is a good sign of his development.

-- Andre Jones was one of the biggest stories of training camp last offseason because of how he used his athleticism to stand out and keep up with the likes of Lamar Jackson during joint practices with the Ravens. He wants to have a bigger impact in Year 2, and he's off to a good start this offseason. He had two wins against Cornelius Lucas, using his speed to get inside of Lucas' protection and rush the quarterback.

-- Finally, Quan Martin had the play of the day and possibly the entirety of the offseason workout program. Marcus Mariota tried to float a pass over him near the end of practice, but Martin got a hand on the ball and secured the turnover behind his back before finishing the play in the end zone.

Related Content