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Minicamp notebook | Defense stands out on Day 2


The Washington Commanders wrapped up Day 2 of mandatory minicamp, and the defense delivered a strong performance from start to finish. Here are some observations from Wednesday's practice. 

-- The defense established the tone early for the day by clogging up running lanes during team drills. Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic and the rest of the running backs found little success on the ground, and there were several times when they were stopped in the backfield. 

-- Ron Rivera praised Benjamin St-Juste for his confidence and how he's played against first-round pick Jahan Dotson. The second-year pro provided a sample of that during two-minute drills, when the starting offense was trying to get in the end zone with four seconds left. St-Juste, who has four inches and a nearly 20-pound advantage on Dotson, provided strong man coverage on the play, forcing the ball to fall incomplete.

-- Percy Butler has been relatively quiet this summer, but he remedied that during red zone drills. The fourth-round pick read the route by the receiver and jumped on the pass from Taylor Heinicke in the back of the end zone. The play earned a massive celebration from the defense and was the latest example of why the coaching staff feels so strongly about the safety.

-- The next interception came during two-minute drills, when the second lineup stepped on the field. Corn Elder scooped up the second pass from Heinicke and ran out of bounds. It isn't the first time that Elder has come down with an interception, and it adds to what has been a solid minicamp for the veteran.

-- Rookie quarterback Sam Howell was fitting the ball through some tight windows during two-minute drills. He delivered a pass to Jaret Patterson between two defenders and hit Marken Michel near the sideline. Howell, who is experiencing what it's like to be a backup quarterback for the first time since seventh grade, is trying his best to fit into his role behind Heinicke and Carson Wentz. He won't be competing anytime soon, but it's encouraging to see him settle into the offense.

-- Antonio Gandy-Golden made an impressive end zone grab during red zone drills, jumping over a defender to make the catch. Gandy-Golden, who has been playing at tight end this offseason, has been making noticeable improvements, according to Rivera. Granted, the Commanders aren't in pads yet, but there are signs that he is catching onto the blocking schemes.

-- Charles Leno and Cornelius Lucas were out today, so Saahdiq Charles was the starting left tackle. He performed well in the role and had a solid rep against James Smith-Williams.

-- Michel continues to be a player that stands out among the second group of wide receivers. He's starting to become a strong target for Heinicke, and he hauled in another deep shot from Heinicke after beating Elder on the play. He had another impressive grab with Cole Kelley in at quarterback. Washington has had one unknown receiver earn his way onto the roster in year's past. It's still early, but perhaps Michel is starting to make his case.

-- The offense looked much better in the final session of the day, and Brian Robinson, who has continued to receive a handful of first-team reps, shows some exceptional vision. He had a cut that prompted praise from running backs coach Randy Jordan as he went on to run for a sizable gain.

-- Chase Roullier addressed the media after practice, and while his recovery has been a slow process, it is heading in the right direction. He'll be working with two new guards, but that's not an unfamiliar situation for him as he's worked with several guards at this point in his career. It also helps that he's watched film on both Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner, so he knows a bit about their skill sets already. Roullier said he's on track to return sometime during training camp, but he didn't give a specific date.

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