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Training camp notebook, Day 13 | Jack Del Rio wants defense to start fast, create more turnovers in 2023

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The Washington Commanders wrapped up their last practice of the week on Wednesday, concluding their prep for the first preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns. Here are some observations from Day 13 of camp. 

-- We'll start things off with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who spoke to the media after practice. Del Rio had two priorities for the defense this offseason. First, he wants the unit to start faster in 2023, which has been a problem for the Commanders in previous seasons. The defense has finished in the top five in terms of yards allowed two of the last three seasons, but lackluster performances in the first six weeks left the team playing catchup for the rest of the year. To do that, Del Rio wants to see the team cut down on mental mistakes. 

"There's just a certain level of focus that we have kind of kicked in after experiencing some things," Del Rio said. "We've done that. Now it's time to start fast."

The fans were back in the stands as the Washington Commanders began Day 12 of training camp. Check out the top photos from this morning. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)

Another issue for the Commanders has been a lack of turnovers. They created 18 takeaways in 2022, which ranked 26th in the NFL. It's a positive sign that Washington finished among the best in the league in several categories, but Del Rio knows the defense needs to create more opportunities for the offense to improve "the health of the team."

"Another turnover here or there in several of the ball games could make the difference between four or five wins or not," Del Rio said.

-- Del Rio sounded pleased when asked what he has seen from the defense in camp. Players are paying attention to details, playing smart and taking care of their bodies.

"If you want to be great, there's no shortcut. You've gotta put in the work," Del Rio said. "Our guys have bought into that. We're all accountable. We're working hard together and improving."

-- The starters are not expected to play much in Friday's preseason game, meaning the backups and players on the roster bubble will get a shot to prove themselves in a game scenario. Del Rio is eager to see what the rest of the defensive roster can offer to the team.

"It'll be a good time to let players that we don't know as much about [help us] learn more about them, to look at some of the more development of the guys that are here returning," Del Rio said. "One thing we want to do is have a lot of usage, roles, packages...and we're building towards that right now with what we're doing. It'll be great to see them in live action."

-- Let's go back to what happened on the field today. Sam Howell continued to stack impressive days today. He looked sharp in the first 11-on-11 periods of the day with passes to Jahan Dotson and Cole Turner.

-- Speaking of which, Howell and Dotson have developed strong chemistry together. The two connected several times at the start of practice with one of the more impressive reps being a throw-and-catch where Dotson found a soft spot in the defense's zone between three defenders.

-- It's become customary to mention anytime Howell and Terry make an explosive play, and that is exactly what happened in the second half of practice when McLaurin secured a deep pass downfield with Darrick Forrest in coverage.

-- As impressive as Howell's pass was, the throw of the day came from Jake Fromm while working with the third offensive group. Fromm delivered a beautiful ball to Zion Bowens, who made the over-the-shoulder catch near the middle of the field.

-- Another impressive grab came from Marcus Kemp, who leaped up to secure the pass from Jacoby Brissett before stepping out of bounds.

-- A couple of the Commanders' tight ends had some eye-catching blocks. John Bates cleared the way for Derrick Gore, who ran down the sideline and into the end zone. With the third group, Curtis Hodges opened a lane for Chris Rodriguez on the right side of the field.

-- Speaking of Rodriguez, the rookie has been catching Randy Jordan’s eye recently. After one run that resulted in decent yardage, Jordan praised Rodriguez by saying the run was "big time."

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