The Washington Commanders are taking a six-week break before returning to the team facility for training camp. Over the past month, players have gone through OTAs and mandatory minicamp, and we learned a lot about what to expect heading into the 2022 season. Here's a look at five takeaways from the Commanders' offseason.
1. Carson Wentz has fit right in with the offense.
Make all the points about it being the offseason, when pads don't even come close to the field, that you want, but it's clear that the offense looks better than it did this time last year.
"I think probably the biggest thing in terms of watching Carson is how he got acclimated to us," Rivera said.
Wentz's performance over the past month hasn't been perfect, but it's clear that his skill set is allowing Washington to do things it simply couldn't in 2021. He's been pushing the ball downfield and giving his pass-catchers chances to make plays. He's been establishing a rapport with his teammates, who have been impressed with how quickly he's learned the playbook.
Of course, there are still some things Wentz needs to work on, such as balancing when to be aggressive or conservative, but his ability to stretch the field has Rivera excited for what the unit can become.
"So, do I expect us to step forward? I do," Rivera said. "I expect us to be able to really expand on what we've done in the past."
2. Jahan Dotson is a legit weapon.
There's no other way to say it: Jahan Dotson has been electric this offseason.
From the first time he stepped on the field during rookie minicamp, Dotson has been one of the Commanders’ best offensive players. All the traits that enticed Washington to draft him -- specifically his route-running and hands -- have been on full display, and he's received heaps of praise from Wentz for it.
"He's awesome," Wentz said. "He's a quiet kid, young kid, but he's a hard worker. He's smart, he's instinctual. He catches the football as natural as anybody I've been around, just how natural he plucks it out of the air."
Dotson was one of Wentz's favorite targets during OTAs and minicamp, and it was easy to see why. Dotson had a habit of being open with rookie and veteran defensive backs alike being left trailing him.
It's also clear to offensive coordinator Scott Turner that getting first team reps is "not to big for him."
"He's playing fast," Turner said. "He's consistently getting separation; he's catching the ball. He doesn't say a lot. He just kind of comes out here and works, which is good."
Granted, practicing well in June does not equal to balling out during the season, but it is a good sign that the rookie is heading in the right direction.
3. Benjamin St-Juste is excelling as a nickel corner.
As good as Dotson has been, he hasn't gotten the better of every defensive back. In fact, there's one that has consistently held his own: Benjamin St-Juste.
"He's been able to move inside and we're just looking to get our best people on the field, give them all a chance to compete," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "I think when you look at the work, the body of work that he's had this off season has been very productive for us and very productive for him."
It makes sense why Del Rio and Rivera decided to play St-Juste as a nickel corner. He's 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, so he has a size advantage on most slot receivers. He's also got exceptional short-area quickness, according to Del Rio, so he can keep up with speedier wideouts.
And, if a team does decide to place a bigger receiver or a tight end in the slot, St-Juste has the size to match up against them.
"It's going to be about matching, and you want to make sure you have the right body type on the right type of a player that's in there," Rivera said. "So, that's kind of what the thought is there. He will play on the outside as well, but we have to be able to say, 'Hey, we can put a big guy there.'"
Having St-Juste in the slot also allows Washington to get more talented defensive backs on the field at the same time, and there's nothing wrong with that, either.
The Washington Commanders have wrapped up their mandatory minicamp. Here are the top photos from Thursday's practice. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
4. Jamin Davis is becoming more confident.
Jamin Davis’ rookie season didn't unfold the way he wanted, but he's making up for that by walking around the team facility with a little more swagger.
"[I'm] Way more confident," Davis said. "I feel more like myself."
Rivera described Davis as a “rep guy” to team analyst Logan Paulsen, meaning "the more reps he gets, the better and more comfortable he gets." Davis has shown that during OTAs and minicamp, as he's received a mix of first and second team reps during team drills. He's also playing faster, which is clear by how he's operated as an outside linebacker.
"So far, things have gone really well," Rivera said. "Looks like he's really starting to pick things up."
The move to the outside seems to have worked out well for Davis. He made the transition in the latter half of the 2021 season, and that allowed him to make more plays in space, which was listed as one of his strengths at Kentucky.
There is still plenty of confidence in what Davis can add to Washington's defense, and if things continue to progress, his talent should be more apparent in Year 2.
5. The rookie class could have a big impact.
Dotson is not the only rookie who has stood out this offseason. Several members of the Commanders' draft class have delivered impressive performances on both sides of the ball.
That's certainly a positive, because many of them will be asked to be key contributors in the fall.
"What I really appreciate is the confidence in which a lot of these younger guys have seemed to grasp onto the things that we do. You see that they've matured in terms of their understanding, their feel for who we can be."
On offense, Cole Turner and Brian Robinson looked as advertised by the coaching staff. Turner, who prides himself on being a red zone target, regularly hauled in athletic catches, while Robinson was the downhill runner that Rivera envisioned.
Most of the defensive additions came in the secondary, and there have been positive signs from Percy Butler and Christian Holmes. Butler, a fourth-round pick, grabbed a perfectly timed interception, and the coaches have been pleased with his skill set. Holmes also brings physicality to his role, and Rivera believes that will be useful once the pads come on for training camp.
Some of the Commanders' draft picks will have bigger roles than others, but even if they can bring a smaller impact to the field, it should make for a more solid roster.