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Minicamp notebook | Depth players continue to shine, show improvement

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The first day of mandatory minicamp is officially in the books for the Washington Commanders. Here are some takeaways from Tuesday morning's practice.

  • John Bates isn't necessarily known for being a pass-catching tight end, but he does have some sneaky good hands. He made a one-handed grab on the first play of team drills from Carson Wentz, hauling in the pass with a defender draped all over him. Bates finished his rookie year with 20 catches on 25 targets for 249 yards. After receiving his first action in Week 6, he didn't drop a pass until Week 12. Having Bates as another weapon should be useful with Logan Thomas being sidelined until the regular season.
  • Tre Walker grabbed the first interception of the day, securing a pass from Sam Howell, who was looking for a receiver in the middle of the field. Walker made it past the offense and sprinted towards the end zone. It's starting to become a regular occurrence for Washington's defense grabs at least one interception per day. Granted, both sides of the ball are intimately familiar with each other's systems, but it is a sign that the chemistry the defense has been talking about is coming through.
  • A couple of Washington's depth players had some impressive plays during 9-on-9 drills. Seventh-round pick Chris Paul, operating as the right tackle on the play, locked down the defensive end, giving Taylor Heinicke a clean pocket. Next, Will Bradley-King made a quick cut inside and got in Howell's face before the quarterback could complete a pass. Ron Rivera has waxed heavily on how important it is for Washington's depth piece to find a role. So far, it looks like two of them are starting to do that.
  • Washington's offensive line was looking sharp in stretches during team drills. One of the best examples came later in the morning, when Wentz flicked the ball to J.D. McKissic on a screen pass. McKissic had a clean path down the right sideline, and he followed his blockers on the way to what would have been a score.
  • Injury update for the day: Curtis Samuel and Antonio Gibson were not at practice during the last day of OTAs because of an abundance of caution from the team. Prior to the start of practice, Rivera said they wanted to be careful with the wideout and running back, but both were on the field and looked healthy during drills.
  • Kam Curl said after practice that he's taken on more of a leadership role on the defense heading into Year 3. He's trying to do the right things on and off the field to set the right example for his teammates. He's been studying the playbook more often and watching more quarterbacks to get an advantage during the season. He's become "a lot smarter" and has increased his awareness ahead of plays.
  • Daron Payne said second-round pick Phidarian Mathis is a quick learner and brings a lot of energy to the field. The two have been close for years, dating back to their days together at Alabama. Payne said Mathis is a big body and knows how to be active on the field, and he's excited to see what the rookie can do on the field.
  • Dyami Brown has more understanding and knowledge of the Commanders' offense. He's been making plays and working with the starting offense for the past month. Because of his growth, he feels like Year 2 is going to be a big season for him.
  • Jamin Davis is feeling "way more comfortable" in his second season. Last year was a humbling experience for the linebacker, but now his play speed has increased along with his comfortability in the defense. He wants to put last year behind him and focus on the progress he's made this offseason.

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