Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

5 Things We Learned During Washington Football Training Camp

Chase Young closes in on Adrian Peterson during practice on Aug.31. (Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team)
Chase Young closes in on Adrian Peterson during practice on Aug.31. (Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team)

The Washington Football team is still a week away from getting into its game week routine for the regular season, but training camp reached its unofficial end after the conclusion of Monday's practice at FedExField. There will be some tough decisions ahead on how to fill out the bottom of the roster, but most of the other evaluations have been completed.

As of Tuesday, there are just 12 days until Washington hosts the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField on Sept.13. There were plenty of questions about the schemes, roster and coaching staff at the start of training camp July 28. But there have been some standouts performances -- whether they came from surprises like Troy Apke or high draft picks like Chase Young -- that provide a clearer picture on what to expect once the season begins.

Here are five things we learned about Washington by the end of training camp:

1. Young is as good as advertised.

There was already plenty of hype surrounding Young when Washington drafted the former Ohio State Buckeye No. 2 overall. He was heralded as one of the best pass-rushing prospects in a decade and expected to change Washington's defense.

Young was limited with a hip flexor injury for some of camp, but he only needed a handful of plays to show off his talent. He shed blocks, batted down passes and easily blew past offensive linemen to harass quarterbacks in the backfield. Perhaps his best play came during the last fully-padded practice when he took down Adrian Peterson at the goal line.

"It just shows you how dynamic the young man can be," said head coach Ron Rivera. "He can be a tempo setter. [It was] just a really good play. Again, he's a young guy that's doing good things and a young guy that brings energy. That's what we're looking for from our guys."

2. Rivera has seen growth out of Dwayne Haskins Jr..

Rivera was not worried about Haskins' touchdown-to-interception ratio during camp; to him, that was not a good indicator of how the second-year signal-caller was grasping offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s system. Rather, he wanted to see Haskins make the right decisions. And so far, Haskins has done that.

"You see the growth, you really do," Rivera said. "Again, we still have a way to go, but it's promising. And that's probably the best thing you can say about it, too, that he's showing those moments that really tells you he's learning."

Haskins showed steady improvement throughout camp. He completed his first 13 passes Aug. 25 and had touchdown passes to Marcus Baugh and Dontrelle Inman. But his best pass of training camp came during the previous practice when he found Terry McLaurin for a long touchdown during two-minute drills.

"I just wanted to show them how much I love the game, the leader that I want to be and how I can be reliable in situations, make the right plays and potentially get some wins," Haskins said. "I'm just trying to keep proving that and get into a game-like situation where I can showcase that. I'm looking forward to doing that and keep proving over and over again and be a guy in this area -- like I said, being from here -- that has a lot of pride for me."

3. Apke has emerged as the favorite to become the starting free safety.

There were many who expected free agent signee Sean Davis to easily transition into being Washington's starting free safety. He had five interceptions in four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he has started 41 games in his career.

Instead, it was Apke who ran out with the starters to begin padded practices, and while players rotated in and out with the ones throughout camp, Apke remained a constant in the secondary.

"The biggest thing about Troy right now is he's got a really good, athletic skillset," Rivera said Aug. 18. "He's got good range, good quickness. One thing he has to work on, obviously, is his angles. He's got to improve those things. He's a sharp, smart player."

Rivera has yet to officially name any starters, but Apke has certainly tried to make his case that he deserves the spot. He forced a fumble from Logan Thomas as he was about to cross the goal line, and he has broken up multiple passes over the past two weeks.

Apke will need to have a strong relationship with strong safety Landon Collins if he wants to keep the spot for the season. That hasn't been an issue, according to Collins, as the two have shown they can work well together.

"He's doing a great job," Collins said. "He's understanding what he's supposed to be looking at. We're talking all the time on the back end, making sure what he sees. He's picking my brain on my knowledge about how to play different things and playing within the defensive calls and how we've got to see things and see different adjustments. Just being on the same page."

4. Rookie Antonio Gibson is a versatile, explosive player.

Gibson's role is perhaps one of the biggest secrets for Washington's offense. He was drafted out of Memphis as a running back, but his skillset encompasses much more than taking handoffs out of the backfield.

Rivera said there is a plan for Gibson, although he will not reveal the details of that plan until the season begins. But it's safe to assume that Gibson will be doing a little of everything.

"Antonio's a very versatile young man, a solid football player," Rivera said. "We're going to try to put him in the best position to help us, try to put him in a position to have success as a football player. There's a lot that we can do with a young man like him."

Gibson has spent time with the receivers, but many of his plays have come as a running back. He's shown off his 4.39-second 40-yard dash speed on several outside runs and proven he is able to work between the tackles. He's also quick and decisive once he sees a crease in the defense. On one particular play during Monday's practice, Gibson took a handoff to the left, made a small pivot and sprinted untouched into the end zone.

"He sees it from all aspects because he has played all of these positions," said running backs coach Randy Jordan. "I see a guy that can catch, I see a guy that can make guys miss, I see a guy that can run between the tackles and attack the perimeter like they have done at Carolina with [Christian] McCaffrey. He can give you mismatches in the passing game. I am really excited about his development and to have the opportunity to work with him."

5. The defensive line is the strongest unit on the team.

It should come as no surprise, but Washington's defensive line has clearly elevated itself to become the top position group on the team. There have been several instances where one or more players have blown past the offensive line and either gotten a sack or batted down passes.

Multiple players have received time with the starters, and they're all capable of creating havoc in the backfield. From Young, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan on the edge to Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis inside, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has plenty of options.

Young said Monday he thinks the position group is "a lot of steps" ahead of where it started in July. There's still a long way to go, he said, but they are getting better with their technique while learning to play Del Rio's system.

"We definitely have gotten really comfortable," Young said. "I feel really good about where we are right now. I feel really comfortable out there. I feel like [if] you give us two more weeks, I think we can definitely put our best foot forward."