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Training camp notebook, Day 11 | Commanders value versatility in backend of WR room


The Washington Commanders have rock solid answers at the top of their wide receiver position with Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown leading the corps. 

The spots on the roster after that quartet, however, are a little more open.  

The Commanders kept six wide receivers on the initial roster last year, so assuming that number stays the same, that leaves two spots for them to fill by the end of the month. The team does have a variety of options to choose from, whether it's veterans like Byron Pringle or Marcus Kemp; former draft picks like Dax Milne; or undrafted players like Kazmeir Allen or Mitchell Tinsley. 

When it comes to filling the backend of the position, coach Ron Rivera has a list of qualities he looks for in players. 

"You're looking at guys that...have position flex, that can play just more than whether it's the Z, the X or the Zebra [positions]," Rivera said. "They've gotta be able to play all three of those spots or two of those three spots."

In terms of flexibility, Pringle might be one of the Commanders' best options. Aside from knowing Eric Bieniemy’s offense better than most on the team, Pringle has played almost as much time out wide (45.4% according to Pro Football Focus) than he has in the slot (51.4%) over the last four seasons.

And it doesn't hurt that Pringle has already received more snaps than many of the other depth players at the position.

"I've played in this system already, and I've played special teams as well," Pringle said. "I feel great to have this opportunity to be here and compete."

Other players like Milne, who has lined up almost exclusively in the slot, and Allen might not be used in different spots on offense, but they do bring value on special teams. Milne was the team's primary return specialist last year with 611 total return yards, while Allen was signed as an undrafted free agent primarily because of his return skills.

Both have caught kicks during special teams drills as the team decides who will fill that role this season. Allen has had a quiet camp thus far, but his playmaking ability got the coaches' attention in April.

"He's smooth," special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor said during OTAs. "He's working on his catch mechanics. We've made just a couple little adjustments with him that he's already adopted."

But flexibility is about more than playing different positions. Rivera also wants receivers who are willing to handle a variety of responsibilities.

"Is it a guy that can go vertical, or is it a guy that's shifty underneath, or is it a guy that's physical and can come down and block?" Rivera said. "Those are the three attributes that I know we'll be talking about...when it comes down to who those guys are gonna be for us."

The Commanders have put all of their receivers in multiple spots during camp, and several have responded well to the changes. Players like Tinsley have stood out more consistently, but others, such as Brycen Tremayne, have had their moments as well.

But the first real test for the receivers competing for the final spots on the roster will be against the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 11. If they hope to land the fifth or sixth spot on the depth chart, they will need to stand out whenever they're on the field.

Here are some more observations from Monday's practice and the press conferences.

-- Today's practice was much lighter than normal with players dressing in shells, but the running backs were still hitting their lanes with intensity. Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson led the position in that effort, but Derrick Gore stood out as well for his ability to read traffic and escape into the secondary.

-- Saahdiq Charles continues to make gradual progress while dealing with a calf injury, and he did get some snaps with the starting offense. He and Chris Paul split reps during certain periods, but it sounds like Rivera is being cautious about getting him back on the field as he deals with his injury.

-- Jacoby Brissett got some snaps with the starting offense at the end of each period today. As with everything in camp, context is important here. Rivera said after practice that giving Brissett time with the starters has been a talking point among the coaches for a while now. They want to give him some time with the starters, because that's the group he'll be playing with if he needs to be on the field during the regular season. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Rivera naming a starter for the 2023 season.

-- Here are a few injury updates: Emmanuel Forbes was participating in team drills, although today's periods were not full speed. Curtis Samuel initially sat out of drills but did take some team reps near the end of practice. Logan Thomas was absent again as he recovers from a calf injury.

The Washington Commanders kicked off Week 3 of camp with another day in full pads. Check out the top photos from Sunday morning. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)

-- Washington was also working out two punters and a long snapper on the side field today. Rivera said after practice that Tress Way was experiencing some tightness in his lower back, so the decision to bring in the punters was a precautionary measure. As for the long snapper, Rivera said it's normal to bring in a player at the position who isn't on the roster when working out punters. Rivera also said that Way will play in the first preseason game.

--- Finally, Rivera said that he has been impressed by the growth from Benjamin St-Juste, noting that the third-year cornerback has had "a lot of confidence" in practice.

"You see him play with confidence, you see how sure he is of his technique, how much stronger he is," Rivera said. "He's a good, physical corner for us with good length. That's kinda cool, and I think it'll be very helpful."

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