The Washington Commanders just wrapped up their first practice of OTAs. Here are some observations from the afternoon.
-- It was the first time we got to see Sam Howell working in Eric Bieniemy’s offense, and he looked the part taking the first team reps in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. His arm strength also showed itself in spurts; during individual drills, he rolled out to his right and unloaded a 30-yard shot to Curtis Samuel with a flick of the wrist.
-- Howell looked in command of the offense in the huddle and during plays, but his accuracy stuck out on several occasions. He only had four incompletions combined in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills: one was out of bounds targeting Brian Robinson, but the rest were drops. One of the more impressive passes was to Terry McLaurin with Benjamin St-Juste bearing down on him. Another highlight was a sideline toss to John Bates, who made the snag right before Jartavius Martin could break up the play.
-- Speaking of Martin, the defense utilized him at several positions on the field and held his own against bigger offensive targets like Logan Thomas. On one play, Martin's coverage was so effective that Thomas had to dive to try and make a play, although the pass from Howell ultimately fell the ground before he could secure it.
-- Phidarian Mathis, who missed basically all of his rookie season with an injury, was back on the field and working with the second defensive group behind Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. Per NFL rules, there was little contact between groups, but Mathis did not look bothered by his knee as he bull rushed offensive linemen on his way to the quarterback. The Commanders were excited about what Mathis could add to the front before he got hurt against the Jacksonville Jaguars, so having him back in the fold is an encouraging sign.
-- There were moments where Jacoby Brissett showed the veteran moxy that Bieniemy and quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard have praised this offseason. That was clearest during red zone drills, where he was able to fit passes into tight windows. He had two touchdown passes during 7-on-7 drills: one to Cole Turner in the front corner of the end zone, and another to undrafted free agent Mitchell Tinsley.
-- Our first interception of OTAs comes from... cornerback Tariq Castro-fields. Brissett tried to air out a pass to Dyami Brown, but Castro-fields made the leap and secured the pass himself before jogging off the field in celebration.
-- Another receiver who got a decent number of targets today was former UCLA wide receiver Kazmeir Allen, who flaunted quickness and elusiveness with the ball in his hands. Granted, defenders aren't allowed to tackle at this point in the year, but Allen looked impressive as he moved past players before heading for the sideline. Rivera mentioned before rookie minicamp that he was excited to see what Allen had to offer, and aside from his abilities as a return specialist, Allen could add another wrinkle in the passing game.
-- First-round pick Emmanuel Forbes got his first of many reps against Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson. McLaurin made a catch near the sideline against Forbes early in 7-on-7 drills, but Forbes used his 4.3 speed to match Samuel and Dotson step-for-step. His plays against all three wideouts should be fun to watch in OTAs and during training camp.
-- Bieniemy was vocal once again during OTA practice and his presence was felt during the entire session. Few, if any mistakes were made that didn't catch Bieniemy's eye, and he was quick to correct each of them, whether it was a player failing to jog off the field or the huddle wasn't executed to his liking. There was also a moment when players were confused about who was supposed to be on the field for certain personnel groupings, and he reminded the offense to be more efficient because "we don't have all day!"
If anything, Bieniemy was louder during OTAs than he was during rookie minicamp. That's likely a trend that will continue as we inch closer to the regular season.