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Practice notes | Commanders defense preparing to see either Dobbs or Tune for Week 1

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The Washington Commanders are three days away from kicking off the 2023 season in front of a sold-out crowd at FedExField. 

As of this moment, the Arizona Cardinals have yet to name a starter for the matchup. 

Here's what we know: the Cardinals will choose between either veteran and career backup Josh Dobbs, who signed with the team after training camp, or fifth-round pick Clayton Tune, a two-year starter at Houston. There are reports that Dobbs will be the starter, but there has been no official announcement from the team. 

The decision by first-time head coach Jonathan Gannon adds another wrinkle to a matchup that already has a fair number of unknown factors for the Commanders. The Burgundy & Gold defense is taking precautions, however, and intends to be prepared for whoever lines up under center. 

"Study them both," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "Study everything that we can, which includes Cleveland, Philadelphia, Dobbs in Tennessee. Just doing all the due diligence and work that you can leading up to an opener."

The Washington Commanders began preparations for their Week 1 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Check out the top photos from Wednesday afternoon. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)

Of the two quarterbacks, there is more NFL film on what Dobbs can bring to an offense. A fourth-round pick in 2017, Dobbs has played in eight games after spending time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans.

Dobbs got the only two starts of his career playing with the Titans. He was signed by the team with less than a week to prepare for their Week 17 game against the Dallas Cowboys, and while he did make some mistakes, he played well enough to keep the Titans competitive.

"If I am the guy," Dobbs said, "then I'll be excited to go out and perform the way I can perform, represent the Cardinals and lead the team."

Even less is known about what Tune can offer, but his college stats show that he at least has talent to possibly be a quality pro with the right development. The 2022 First Team All-AAC selection threw for 4,069 yards last year, completing 67.4% of his passes with a career high 40 touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions.

"There's been a lot going on, but I just focus on what I can control," Tune said via the team's website. "Everyone is worrying about doing their role to the best of their ability and helping this team win."

There are advantages to starting either player. Tune might be more physically talented, but Dobbs has worked in offensive coordinator Drew Petzing's system during his two stints with the Browns.

The decision to keep the quarterback depth chart under wraps adds another layer of preparation for the Commanders, as they have to practice as if they could see either player on Sunday. When asked by reporters, Jonathan Allen gave his typical response that he and his teammates need to be more concerned about themselves.

"I'm a firm believer [that] as long as we do what we have to do, we'll have the success we need," Allen said. "And that's really against anybody. I don't try to give power to the opponent. I try to take power into our hands. As long as we go out there and execute our game plan and do what we have to do to be successful, it's going to work out."

Jeremy Reaves gave a similar response, adding that the defense has been preparing for both players in practice.

"There's some film on them," Reaves said. "Not a lot, obviously. But we just want to play football. Thay's all you really can do."

Ultimately, the decision by Arizona not to officially name a quarterback comes down to gamesmanship. Gannon feels that the lack of transparency gives the Cardinals a competitive advantage, and even though it forces Washington to dedicate extra time for two players instead of one, head coach Ron Rivera understands the motivation.

"I wouldn't either," Rivera said.

Final notes

-- Terry McLaurin and Chase Young were both at practice today, adding more evidence to their convictions that they will be ready for Sunday.

-- Here's what Del Rio had to say about Young's status for Week 1:

"He's working hard to be ready to go. So, he came back as healthy as I've seen him probably since his rookie year and so great to see that. We're waiting on the blessing from the doctors to give him the green light and when we get that, then it'll go with."

-- The players are fired up to be back on the field this week and are anxious to compete in front of the sold-out crowd at FedExField. Prior to the start of practice, Daron Payne said he expects a fun atmosphere.

-- Sunday will be the first time assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy will call a game that actually counts for the Commanders. Of course, Bieniemy is nervous, but he was taught a long time ago that "if you ain't nervous, you ain't ready."

"There's always a nervous energy. But you always got to have that quiet, calm demeanor about yourself that shows your confidence because your players will basically respond to what you're showing and what you're exuding."

-- Finally, Bieniemy gave a long answer about what he has learned about McLaurin and what his presence, or lack thereof, could mean on Sunday. Here's a sample of what he said:

"He provides an example of what it takes to be a student of the game, but on top of that, when placed in a leadership role, he's showing these guys how to do it the right way as well. I love everything that he brings to the table."

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