The next six days will be an important stretch for the Washington Commanders. Aug. 19 marks the official "end" of training camp, so the next few practices will play a critical role in evaluating the roster.
It's also the week of joint practices with the Baltimore Ravens -- the first time Washington has either hosted or visited another team before a preseason game since Ron Rivera became the head coach -- on Aug. 15 and 16. It provides the best chance for Rivera and his staff to judge where the Commanders are at in their development, and the two-day period has quickly become the most anticipated portion of camp.
"I think it does give us a little more insight," Rivera told reporters after Sunday's practice.
The Ravens have been one of the better teams since Harbaugh took over in 2008. They have 10 postseason appearances during that time frame, including a Super Bowl win in 2012, with a record of 147-95.
More recently, the Ravens have adopted a physical approach to both sides of the ball, but specifically on offense. They had the seventh-most rushing attempts last season and the second-best yards per game all while averaging 5.2 yards per carry (T-2nd).
Rivera is looking forward to exposing the Commanders to that style outside of a game scenario.
"I do like the idea of having the intensity ramped up, having these guys be competitive for a couple of days," Rivera said. "It also means we can be smart with them as we get into the rest of the preseason."
Check out the top photos from the Washington Commanders' season opener against the Cleveland Browns. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
And according to Rivera, there is an abundance of benefits to having joint practices during camp. The analytics provided by the NFL have shown that the injury rate for teams decreases in the first five weeks of the regular season. Rivera also held joint practices when he was coaching the Carolina Panthers, and he noticed that his players had more intensity for Week 1.
Slow starts have been a problem for the Commanders over the last three seasons with the team being at least two games below .500 in the first six weeks. Rivera is hoping the time with the Ravens will provide a jolt to his players.
"It's gonna push our guys to have to be good about every little detail," Rivera said.
The preparation for the joint practices has already begun, as Rivera and Harbaugh spoke last week about how they would like the two days to unfold.
"We're going against an established team that's done a great job under coach Harbaugh, and I think there's a lot of things we can learn as a group from these guys," Rivera said.
Here are some more observations from Day 14.
-- Here's some injury updates: Chase Young and Phidarian Mathis were limited in practice out of an abundance of caution by the coaching staff. Young suffered a stinger in Friday's game, while Mathis tweaked his calf.
-- Sunday's practice was mostly a walkthrough with players in shorts and jerseys, but Sam Howell looked sharp as he went through his progressions in team drills. He and Jahan Dotson continue to develop a strong connection, as Howell found Dotson on several occasions in the 11-on-11 portion of practice. We saw the results of that work together on Friday with Howell hitting Dotson for a touchdown, so it's clear all that work is paying off.
-- Saahdiq Charles was back on the field and participating in team drills on Sunday after dealing with a calf injury for most of camp. Charles and Chris Paul have been in a competition to be the starting left guard, and the two split reps for most of the day.
-- Emmanuel Forbes almost had another impressive interception during team drills, but Brycen Tremayne was able to snatch the pass from Jacoby Brissett out of the rookie's grasp and turn upfield. Rivera said after practice that he likes the competition that exists at the bottom of the receiver depth chart. There is only one, possibly two open spots at the position, and most of the players have made strong cases that deserve to be on the 53-man roster.
-- Kendall Fuller was back on the field and looked athletic as one of the starting cornerbacks. He had a leaping pass breakup during red zone drills, and he had an interception a few plays later.
-- Another defensive back who stood out was Percy Butler, who had a strong game against the Browns. Butler had a nice breakup near the right sideline on Sunday, and like Fuller, he also grabbed an interception.
-- Kazmeir Allen was the only Commanders player to return kicks on Friday, amassing four total returns for 65 yards, including a 14-yard punt return. Rivera had a word for how Allen played against the Browns: "Interesting."
"He's a young, dynamic guy that's got some explosion to him. He's got a lot to learn...because he kind of bounced around positions at UCLA, but the one thing that did stand out is he is explosive. But as I said, he's got a long way to go. He's a guy that's gonna take some time, but we do like him. We do find him interesting and intriguing."
-- A lot of attention has been placed on the offensive line, and Rivera thought the starting group got more comfortable as the game against the Browns wore on. There were some things that needed to be corrected in the first two drives of the game. Some of the individual techniques, such as getting vertical in their pass protection sets, needed to improve, but Rivera described them as "detail things" that will be fixed as the group works together throughout the preseason. On the third drive, Rivera was more impressed with how they operated on the 10-play scoring series.
"You saw some positive things, especially the way they finished it," Rivera said.