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Three things to watch during Commanders minicamp


We are nearing the end of the Washington Commanders' offseason workout program, which means that mandatory minicamp is around the corner.

Under normal circumstances with other teams, this would perhaps be the only time we see some of the veterans interact with the younger players until training camp in July. While the offseason workout program has been going since April 1, the workouts themselves are voluntary. Many players come to the facility anyway, but some like to train on their own or have other demands that limit their participation.

For the Commanders, however, this week will not look much different than it has for the past two months. Sure, the practices will be longer, but the Commanders have had 100% attendance for their first offseason under head coach Dan Quinn, which has led to more competition and experimentation from the staff.

"The competition during this phase of spring football is certainly different than it is in training camp," Quinn said. "It's speed, it's your execution, but not the physicality. So, we don't wanna go too far in the evaluation physically because so much of this evaluation is assignment, where we're at, the communication. If we get that part right, then we know when we get to camp, we'll really let it rip."

With players being placed at different spots and contact being a necessity for several position groups with the most questions -- like the offensive line -- it is hard to put much stock in what is shown on the field. Still, this is the last time the Commanders will be on a field together until late July, so here are some things to keep an eye on this week.

1. Jayden Daniels' command of the offense.

Daniels was praised during the draft process for being what he described as "a football junkie," and everything he has done so far has affirmed that evaluation, from offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury saying that Daniels is intentional in everything he does to Jonathan Allen praising him for getting to the facility earlier than anyone else.

Daniels' habits lead to visible results on the field. Although he is known for being a mobile quarterback, he has elected to stay in the pocket, go through his progressions and deliver strikes to his open receivers. Plays like dropping a ball over the shoulder to Jahan Dotson will get most of the attention, but even his incompletions show a degree of savviness. During one red zone drill where the offense had 28 seconds to score, he threw a pass out of bounds rather than forcing one to a receiver, which stopped the clock and gave the offense more time without risking a turnover.

Daniels will need to continue that progression as he dives deeper into the playbook. Contact is still prohibited according to league rules, but there will be more 11-on-11 periods over the next few days, which means Daniels will need to avoid pass-rushers, albeit with defensive linemen who have no intention of sacking him, while reading the secondary to make the best play.

There has been nothing to suggest that Daniels is struggling with this; rather, everything he's shown points to him taking his lessons in stride. But having a good end to the offseason should raise the team's confidence in him even more.

2. The carousel at offensive line.

The Commanders invested heavily in overturning their roster this offseason, spending money on more than two dozen new players and a few returners from the previous regime to raise the overall talent. There are still questions, though, and who will be the starting five on the offensive line is one of the biggest.

We can already see most pieces of the complete picture. Tyler Biadasz is essentially a lock to be the starting center with Sam Cosmi and Andre Wylie sliding in as the right guard and tackle, respectively. Nick Allegretti, another free agent signing, is the likely candidate at left guard.

That leaves left tackle, and there are currently three options to fill the spot: Cornelius Lucas, Trent Scott and third-round draft pick Brandon Coleman. As for who has a leg up in the competition, it's anyone's guess at this point.

"At that position specifically, it's going to take more time," Quinn said. "And the reason being is you've seen where we haven't done a lot of team [drills] together."

When the Commanders finally did do 11-on-11 drills, all three players got starting reps. Trent Scott kicked things off with the first group with Lucas playing in the second group at right tackle, but Coleman also got some snaps with the ones as well.

There will be no answers at left tackle for at least the next two months, when contact is allowed in practice. Players will focus on mastering their technique and getting a hold of the playbook. All that is still worth paying attention to, though, because whoever can improve the fastest will have an advantage in training camp.

3. The chemistry in the secondary.

There are several unknown factors surrounding the Commanders' defense and what it will look like by Week 1, but how the secondary will take shape is perhaps one of murkiest position groups in the unit.

There are certainly plenty of pieces for the Commanders to mold something. There are 19 defensive backs on the roster, including 11 cornerbacks. The group is made up of veterans like Michael Davis; younger players with potential like Emmanuel Forbes Jr. and Benjamin St-Juste; established starters like Darrick Forrest; and career backups like Nick Whiteside and James Pierre. In theory, there is enough for Quinn and defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr., who was known for elevating defensive backs with the Dallas Cowboys, to put together a competent starting lineup.

How those pieces will work together remains a mystery. There has been a litany of matchup combinations over the last few weeks of OTA with multiple players getting time with the starters. Granted, defensive backs rotate more than other position groups, so they all need to get experience working with each other, but there have not been many hints on anything resembling a depth chart with the group.

Free agent acquisitions Jeremy Chinn and Michael Davis appear to be the closest things to "locks" at corner and safety. Davis has appeared in more games than any other corner on the Commanders' roster, while Chinn has been a full-time starter since his first days with the Carolina Panthers.

Many players have more to prove. Both Forbes and St-Juste have been starters, but consistency has been lacking from both their skill sets. Noah Igbinoghene is a former first-round pick with just 37 appearances in four seasons. Quan Martin has athleticism and versatility but needs to build on the progress he showed in the second half of last season.

Like the offensive line, there will not be any solid answers for a while. The most the defensive backs can do is show how well they work together during plays. Communication has been a focal point for the team in practice, and the moments before a ball is snapped during 11-on-11 drills are filled with players talking and adapting to formations.

The Commanders want to find the best combination of players that will help them win. Whoever shows the most chemistry with their teammates is sure to catch the coaches' eyes.

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