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Three big observations from Washington's offseason practices


It's going to be a while before we see the Washington Commanders on the field again. The team is going on an extended vacation after two months of offseason workouts, which should give them plenty of time to prepare for training camp in late July.

Though the Commanders are still in the beginning stages of building Dan Quinn's culture, we were able to see glimpses of the future. Here are three big observations from OTAs.

1. No imminent decision on the starting quarterback.

The Commanders didn't draft Jayden Daniels with the No. 2 overall pick to be the backup. It is a widely acknowledged fact that, eventually, Daniels will be the starter and help the franchise turn into a perennial playoff contender.

But the Commanders haven't made any proclamations about Daniels' position on the roster...yet. For now, he's going to remain in a competition with Marcus Mariota.

"Well, in true competition, that's why we set it up as we did to have Marcus have some and Jayden to have some [starting reps]," Quinn said.

That's not to say Daniels failed to live up to his reputation. Daniels looked crisp throughout the offseason workout program, delivering on target throws that zip out of his hand to his receivers. During the last day of minicamp, he had back-to-back touchdown passes to Brian Robinson Jr., both of which were delivered over the heads of multiple defenders.

Daniels has also been spending extra time in film study and getting to the facility earlier than most of his teammates. That kind of approach has earned praise from his teammates and coaches.

"He really has a very firm handle on the things that we're doing, but he also has the humility of a young player," Quinn said. "And so I thought, what a cool combination to have this presence as an older player, but yet the humility of the new and younger player, knowing that he has a lot to prove."

So, while Daniels might not have the "QB1" title yet, he's certainly on that path.

2. Skill players are going to move around a lot.

We don't know much about the system offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury is bringing to Washington. He said in February that he wouldn't call it an "Air Raid" scheme, although it's logical to assume there will be some similarities. One thing we do know is that players are going to be moved around...a lot.

"You're going to see me all over the field," said running back Austin Ekeler.

It's clear why the Commanders were so interested in Ekeler, who has 69 total touchdowns as a runner and receiver. He offers an excess of versatility, and the Commanders are eager to use it. He told reporters June 12 that he's been used all over the field, from the backfield to the slot, out wide and on the edge. Ekeler views himself as a "Swiss Army knife," and he knows he's going to get the job done, regardless of how he is used.

Terry McLaurin has also noticed some "positionless" aspects of Kingsbury's offense. He could technically have several assignments depending on the hash and formation.

"You've got to really learn the entire concept and know where you're at on the field, which I think makes everybody smarter players," McLaurin said. "You don't pigeonhole yourself ... You get in two-minutes [drills], you're the 'Z,' now you've got to know what to do. You may have the clearout route, or you may have the backside dig. You've got to know what you're doing."

Kingsbury is trying to make an offense that best fits the personnel he has on the roster. That means players are going to be put in new situations to see if the role maximizes their skill set. If it helps them win more games, the players are all for it.

3. Noticeable improvements on defense.

The Commanders needed an upgrade on both sides of the ball from 2023, but their defense is what needed it the most. They were last in nearly every category, and that includes being the only team to give up at least 30 points per game since 2020.

Thanks to some veteran signings like Bobby Wagner and Frankie Luvu, plus the installation of the new defense, Quinn has seen "this collective rise" from the unit.

"You've heard me talk about ball skills a lot and they've really put, you know, that type of work in to find that and thinking like an example of that was [S] Quan [Martin] yesterday to make a fantastic play," Quinn said. "Those don't just happen, so you have to put the work in to create takeaways, also the catching and those moments. So that alone, I've been impressed by from where I saw us at the early part of the offseason program to where we're at now."

If there's one big difference in the defense this year, it's how loud they are. The players are constantly communicating before the ball is snapped, letting each other know what they're seeing, and what to look out for.

Defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. loves that, and it speaks to how well the players have taken to his scheme.

"They've done a really nice job," Whitt said. "Just the energy, the excitement of what we're doing, the way they're buying in, the way they're competing. It's fun, man."

Who knows how the defense will look when it must match up against another team in September, but if the players are already communicating this much, it's a good sign for how they will play when the games count.

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