Wednesday's practice was one of the most intense the Washington Commanders experienced up to this point in training camp. The players were on the field for well over two hours in the heat, and as has been the case this year, Eric Bieniemy and the rest of the coaches demanded a lot from them.
So, the players were rewarded with a much lighter, and shorter, practice on Thursday.
"We had a really good week last week, then coming into this week, three hard days in a row, and we thought we'd back it off a little bit today in terms of the tempo," head coach Ron Rivera told reporters.
Thursday's practice was much more relaxed compared to previous days. The starting offense rarely competed against each other, and special teams was more of a priority. As a result, the players were able to focus more on fine tuning their technique and execution on certain plays.
But with pads coming back on tomorrow, Rivera wants them to be fresh and ready to go.
"We expect them to come back with a little more energy in a higher tempo practice for sure," Rivera said.
Let's take a look at some observations from practice.
-- Since the intensity at practice was toned down, evaluating competition can be difficult. With that said, there were still some standout moments, one of the biggest being how crisp Sam Howell looked all morning. His first three passes were completed to Brian Robinson, Jahan Dotson and Dyami Brown with the latter bringing in receptions deep downfield. The defense didn't battle much for the ball, but Howell did have good placement on the passes.
-- There were some rare moments when the tone sped up a bit more, and that was the case in red zone drills. The clear catch of the day came from Marcus Kemp, who made a grab in the corner of the end zone from Jacoby Brissett.
-- Now on to the press conferences with Rivera, Kendall Fuller and Curtis Samuel addressing the media. The offense has been behind the defense in terms of development for most of camp (that's mostly because the defense is in the fourth year of their system, whereas the offense is still learning their new scheme), but Rivera said that he is seeing growth from the unit in terms of running more complex concepts.
"Eric is throwing a lot at them," Rivera said. "He's not piecemealing it. He's not starting from the bottom. We're learning, and we're learning quickly."
-- Camp stars show up every year, and it looks like Mason Brooks, an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss, has become this for the Commanders' offensive line. He's had a solid week of practice so far, including a couple of reps where he shut down Phidarian Mathis in 1-on-1 pass protection drills. Rivera thinks Brooks is a "solid" player who might get overlooked because he only spent one season in the SEC, but he has looked better with more opportunities.
-- On that note, Rivera discussed how undrafted free agents can stand out in camp. In a word: consistency.
"If he gets your attention, he's gotta do it from that point on," Rivera said. "It's the same thing at any position. Is he consistent? When he gets his opportunity to play, how does he play? And is he ready to play?"
-- Bieniemy has pushed the players constantly for the first couple weeks of camp, but players like Samuel have come to appreciate his style.
"You want someone that's gonna be hard on you, because you understand it's coming from a good place," Samuel said. "Sometimes, players need someone who's gonna push them to the next level."
-- Finally, Fuller has been impressed with rookie Emmanuel Forbes, saying that his fellow cornerback is starting to play faster.
"When you first get in there trying to learn the defense, sometimes you allow your mental process to slow you down," Fuller said. "He's been coming out here, mentally starting to pick it up faster, so you see him reacting faster to certain things and routes and things like that. He's definitely improving each and every day."