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Training camp notebook, Day 18 | Rivera confident in decision to name Howell Commanders' starter


After taking a day off to rest from their two joint practices with the Baltimore Ravens, the Washington Commanders were back at OrthoVirginia Training Center practicing in front of their own fans. Let's take a look at some of the top observations from Day 18. 

-- Let's start with the biggest news of the day: Sam Howell, who has operated as "QB1" for the entire offseason, was named the starting quarterback for Week 1 ahead of practice. Most of Ron Rivera's press conference was about addressing his decision, and the reasoning was simple: Howell has grown since being given the first shot at being the starter, and while he's not perfect, he has enough talent to help the Commanders win. 

"We've been very pleased with it to the point where I decided yesterday that we were gonna name him the starter heading into the regular season," Rivera said. 

-- Howell's first practice against the Ravens is what helped solidify him as the starter. He had a calm demeanor as he directed the offense, and Rivera was impressed with the way Howell kept his eyes downfield as he scrambled out of the pocket.  

"I think everybody knew from my perspective, it was Sam's [job] to lose," Rivera said.

-- Here's some injury news: Logan Thomas continued to make progress with his calf injury and did some more work on the side field. Chase Young is still taking things slowly with his stinger, but he did participate in individual drills with no contact.

-- Let's get to what happened on the field. Howell looked sharp throughout his first practice cemented as the Commanders' starter. He only had one incompletion in the first series of 11-on-11 drills with the best throw being a strike to Jahan Dotson near the middle of the field.

-- After team drills, the Commanders split into two groups: the tight ends and running backs went to one end of the field to practice pass concepts, while the receivers worked with the defensive backs for one-on-one drills. Newcomer tight end Kaden Smith made an impressive focus catch as he juggled the ball all the way down to the ground before completing the reception.

-- On the other end of the field, Benjamin St-Juste was one of the more impressive defensive backs on the field as he provided tight coverage and forced incompletions. Byron Pringle was a standout during the drill as well with a sideline catch. It's possible that Christian Holmes just slipped at the beginning of the play, but either way, things ended with Holmes on the ground and Pringle jogging into the end zone.

-- Andre Jones has gotten a lot of attention over the last few practices because of his quickness off the edge. He showed that trait off again during red zone drills, when he blew past Jaryd Jones-Smith and tapped Brissett on the shoulder.

-- It's been clear since camp began that the offensive line is going to be a work in progress, but they do have strong moments in the run game. During one play, Sam Cosmi did a good job of clearing space and sealing off his defensive linemen to create a lane for Brian Robinson, who burst through the hole and turned upfield.

-- Speaking of strong running backs, Chris Rodriguez is hard to stop once he starts running downfield. He hits the hole hard whenever he has the ball in his hands, and he had a few runs today that earned some praise from Randy Jordan.

-- Alex Armah isn't going to stand out much as a pass-catcher or ball-carrier, but he is an exceptional blocker. He's physical at the point of attack and stays locked onto defenders once he engages with them. He did a good job of driving Darrick Forrest to the sideline on a run play, providing room for Curtis Samuel down the right sideline.

-- It's clear that Howell and Dyami Brown have a strong connection. The two connected during seven-on-seven drills with Brown hauling in a contested catch near the middle of the field.

-- Speaking of impressive catches, Jonathan Williams brought in a rainbow from Jacoby Brissett with Jamin Davis in coverage, scoring a touchdown in the process.

-- If there was a runner-up for the catch of the day, it would be the grab Brycen Tremayne had today. Brissett lofted up a pass to the undrafted wideout near the right sideline, and Tremayne made the reception over Terrell Burgess for a decent gain.

-- But the real catch of the day came from none other than Terry McLaurin during seven-on-seven drills. The veteran wideout got behind the secondary and hauled in a 40-yard touchdown throw from Howell.

-- Finally, just to end things on a positive note, here's Camaron Cheeseman carrying a corgi in a backpack for your viewing pleasure.

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