The weather was much cooler during the Washington Commanders' Thursday training camp practice, and the energy was light as the team continued its preparations for the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers.
There will be one more practice this week, located at Joint Base Andrews, which will be an hour-long walkthrough. After that, the next time we see the Commanders will be FedExField warming up for a 1 p.m. Saturday kickoff.
Let's take a look at some of the observations from the day.
-- With the starters practicing against the backups for most of the morning in jerseys and helmets, there wasn't too much action to see. However, there were a few things to gleam from the day. With John Bates back on the side field and Cole Turner recovering from his hamstring injury, it was Curtis Hodges and Armani Rogers who took most of the first team reps in team drills. The duo makes sense; they've stood out the most among the backups on the field. It's fortuitous for them, because now they get the chance further cement the possibility of one of them making the initial 53-man roster, assuming that Logan Thomas doesn't get activated before Week 1.
-- Marken Michel flashed again today with a catch on a deep through near the right sideline. Michel has received some praise from Terry McLaurin and Ron Rivera. The head coach said that Michel has been a professional who knows how to prepare. He's interested to see a player like Michel get an opportunity, which he will certainly have against the Panthers. That matchup, along with the two remaining preseason games, will be important evaluation benchmarks for Michel and the rest of the receivers as they try to round out the bottom of the position.
-- Another day, another interception for the defense. Yesterday, it was Bobby McCain who brought in a pass that was overthrown to McLaurin. Today, Darrick Forrest snagged the pick. Forrest has had a solid camp, particularly against run plays, and seems to have taken a jump in his development. That's a positive sign for someone who did not play much in 2021. He should get plenty of reps on Saturday as the team tries to figure out the depth in the secondary.
-- When it comes to the offensive group as a whole on Saturday -- Carson Wentz is also confirmed to see some time against the Panthers -- Rivera said he wants to see consistency. That encompasses communication in the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage and efficiently executing plays. He wants to see plenty of situations throughout the afternoon, including third downs, red zone and goal line plays.
-- When it comes to finding a reliable return specialist, Rivera said he wants a player who can first secure the catch before looking upfield. He's confident that both Dax Milne and Alex Erickson can do that, but he also mentioned the possibility of Jahan Dotson getting some return reps as well.
-- Depth at the tight end position has been thin recently, but Rivera is not concerned about how that will impact Week 1. He expects players like Bates and Turner to be back at some point. He admitted it is disappointing that players like Bates and Turner will not play, but it's also an opportunity for other players to improve their stock.
-- In terms quarterback play, he would love for Sam Howell to get a two-minute drill at the end of the game. It would be good experience for him, because while he has improved in recent weeks, he still has much to learn. Rivera added that Taylor Heinicke will play into the third quarter with Howell finishing things up.