The Washington Commanders just wrapped up their first practice of training camp, and everyone is in agreement: it's great to be back.
"I thought the guys picked up right where they left off from OTAs and minicamp," said head coach Ron Rivera. "I thought the energy was what we needed, and it's one of those things that you're trying to see if their retention is where it needs to be. There were some really good things going on out there."
From start to finish, players looked crisp and moved efficiently from one drill to the next. Each side of the ball played with intensity, and mistakes were a rare occurrence. That's a positive sign for how camp will play out, but Rivera wants to see if they can maintain that energy.
"We'll see how they are in about three or four days when they get a little tired, a little fatigued, see how they handle it," Rivera said. "For today, very pleased with what we saw out there."
With that being said, let's take a look at some of the highlights from today.
-- Let's start with the most important position on the field: the quarterback. As expected, Sam Howell was "QB1" during team drills, just as he was during OTAs, and the second-year pro had a strong day with several impressive throws, particularly in 7-on-7 drills. He opened the day with a strike to Jahan Dotson, and he followed that up with a rainbow pass to Antonio Gibson. There were a handful of incompletions, but he still placed the ball in spots where only the receiver could make the catch. One of the more impressive throws was to Terry McLaurin, who snagged the pass near the sideline with Emmanuel Forbes providing solid coverage.
-- Howell looked more confident as he directed the offense, and that is a reflection of how comfortable the quarterback said he has gotten in Eric Bieniemy’s system. Howell was making strides back in June, but he had to constantly think and process each play before the ball was snapped. That still happens occasionally, but he is much quicker with understanding his responsibilities and where to put the ball.
-- Howell considers it a blessing to be "QB1" for training camp and have the chance to be the starter for Week 1. He also knows that there is still a lot of work to be done, so no matter where he ends up on the depth chart, he wants to stay consistent with how he prepares each day.
"I know if I go out there on the field and play the type of football I think I can play, everything will work out for itself."
-- Let's move on to some of the other players who stood out today. Both Logan Thomas and Cole Turner looked sharp today and used their length to make plays over defensive backs. Turner had an impressive catch over two defenders during 7-on-7 drills, while Thomas used every inch of his 6-foot-6 frame to snag a pass from Howell with Darrick Forrest in coverage.
-- Brian Robinson might not be known as a dominant pass-catcher, but the former third-round pick showed that he can be a threat out of the backfield. He made one of the better catches on the day during team drills with a one-handed, over-the-shoulder reception near the sideline.
-- The offense had a good day, but there were multiple positive plays on the defensive side of the ball as well. That started with a PBU from Benjamin St-Juste while working against Curtis Samuel. Howell placed the ball where it needed to be, and Samuel did manage to get a hand on it. St-Juste, however, came from behind and battled for it, leading to him knocking the ball out of Samuel's hands.
-- Speaking of the DBs, here was the lineup for the starting secondary: St-Juste was in the slot with Kendall Fuller and Forbes playing outside. The safeties were Kamren Curl and Darrick Forrest. That lineup could change over the next month, but that group is where the evaluation starts for the backend of the defense.
-- Forbes had a nice PBU on newcomer Byron Pringle near the end of practice. After Pringle managed to get a step on him down the sideline, Forbes made up the lost ground and forced Pringle to bobble and eventually lose the ball before falling to the ground.
-- Finally, there were four players who managed to grab interceptions today: Terrell Burgess, D.J. Stirgus, Ferrod Gardner and Christian Holmes. Forrest said the defense wanted to emphasize creating turnovers today, and they certainly accomplished that goal.