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Training Camp Notebook: More And More Interceptions

Landon Collins shakes hands with Jeremy Reaves in between plays. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
Landon Collins shakes hands with Jeremy Reaves in between plays. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.

That's a wrap on Washington's trip to Richmond to start training camp, and in case the headline wasn't clear enough, there were a lot of interceptions Saturday morning.

There were some great plays from the offense, but the day belonged to the defense, as several members of the secondary and linebacker corps were ballhawks in team drills. It was a reminder that not only is the unit still one of the best in the league, the offseason moves it made have helped it improve.

Here's a breakdown for some of those impressive picks and other observations from the team's final practice of the week.

-- On a day that interceptions were not in short supply, Landon Collins was the clear standout. He said on Friday that he's moving better than ever on the field, and he flaunted that newfound mobility. Both grabs came in the second half of practice; the first was from a tipped pass, which forced Collins to make a dive for the ball before it hit the ground. The next was in red zone drills, when Collins read Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pass to perfection. Ron Rivera praised Collins' work in the offseason to prepare himself for this moment, and all the mental reps he did with Chris Harris in minicamp seem to have paid off.

-- Collins' performance was certainly great, but Cole Holcomb might have had the most impressive pick of training camp thus far. Holcomb stepped back into coverage and read the pass from Taylor Heinicke. Holcomb took a leap and made the one-handed grab, which earned a rousing applause from the crowd. Holcomb had a similar play during minicamp when he laid out to break up a pass. Holcomb wasn't able to secure the ball back then, but it's clear that he's added a little extra strength to his hands.

-- You expect to see interceptions from the players on the back end of the defense, but it's rare for it to come from a defensive linemen. Casey Toohill was able to buck that trend today with a little bit of help. Washington was wrapping up a segment of red zone drills when someone -- there is some debate over exactly who it was -- tipped Heinicke's pass. It looked as if the ball was going to innocently tumble to the ground, but that was when Toohill came diving in to scoop it up just inches before being ruled an incompletion. Rivera said he is confident in the depth at defensive end behind Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Plays like that are the reason why.

-- Many of the receivers still fighting for a roster spot had quality reps today. Dax Milne made a tough grab as he collided with a defender while making a jump for the ball. He made the reception, which got him a "Good catch, Dax!" from one of his fellow receivers. DeAndre Carter had himself a day, though, with three catches. The first two resulted in decent gains in the middle of the defense, and he beat his man during red zone drills to make a catch in the end zone. Rivera said Carter has been making catches like that all camp, and his ability as a dual returner allows for some flexibility on the gameday roster.

-- Stop if you've read this before: Terry McLaurin had another dominant practice. Rivera has noticed some changes in the third-year pro as he furthers his development as a No. 1 receiver, particularly in how he adjusts to the type of throws that he sees. He's improved his body control and put himself in a good position to make the catch. It helps that McLaurin has a strong grasp of Washington's offense, which allows him to build on his chemistry with Fitzpatrick and the rest of the quarterbacks.

-- McLaurin is not the only player who's developing a bond with Fitzpatrick. Logan Thomas has been someone Fitzpatrick looks to more frequently, and it's been impressive to see how well they work together. Thomas gashed the defense on a wide open shot from the signal-caller in team drills and later made an end zone grab during red zone drills. Thomas led the team in touchdown receptions last year; as good as McLaurin and the receivers are, he could do the same thing in 2021.

-- As Washington started to leave the field during Fan Appreciation Day, Rivera, Young and McLaurin took some time to address the fans. All three of them had the same message: they missed the fanbase and are happy to have them back. And as the team is set to welcome them back to FedExField, they reassured them that they want to give them something to cheer about.

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