The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.
It's (preseason) game week, and head coach Ron Rivera wanted to bring a different vibe to practice today.
"We want to make sure the guys understand the sense of urgency, the importance [of it] and how things are changing," Rivera told reporters. "And you're right; we were a little ramped up today."
Players are evaluated every day, but Aug. 12's matchup with the New England Patriots is an opportunity for the coaches to see how they react to game situations. There won't be any second chances, Rivera said, and he wanted to impress that fact onto his players. And while there's still a few weeks before roster cuts, the games will play a large role in those decisions.
"We want to go out there, and we want to play hard, we want to play right, and we're gonna play to win," Rivera said. "And we want to practice that way."
Here are some observations from Tuesday morning.
-- Not that there were any doubts in the first place, but the defense showed why it's important to practice tip drills during team segments. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pass to Antonio Gibson was broken up by tight coverage from Cole Holcomb. The ball then popped in the air, so DeAndre Carter tried smacking it away to avoid a turnover. The extra effort was in vain, though, as Kendall Fuller came up with the interception and ran towards the end zone. Those situations are rare in a game, although it's encouraging to see the defense is ready for them.
-- Sam Cosmi has gotten much better at holding his own against Montez Sweat in 1-on-1s and is starting to win reps more consistently. The rookie faced Sweat twice; Sweat tried to use his speed first, but Cosmi pushed him around the quarterback. Cosmi almost lost his footing one the second rep, but he quickly recovered and finished the play. Going against some of the best young edge rushers in the league has clearly rubbed off on Cosmi. The next step is to see how that holds up against the Patriots' front.
-- A lot of the receivers outside of Washington's top options have been making some solid catches lately, and that includes a pair of receptions by Antonio Gandy-Golden from Taylor Heinicke. It will be intriguing how Gandy-Golden plays in his first preseason game. Although he didn't play much during his rookie season due to injury, the coaches like the way he plays as well as his size. Gandy-Golden has only played in one game since being placed on injured reserve in Week 7, so how he plays on Thursday will say something about where he's at in his development.
-- Danny Johnson had another impressive interception today. On Sunday, he got a tipped pass from Linden Stephens, but he got the grab by himself today. Steven Montez took a shot to the end zone in team drills, and it looked like the ball would float out of bounds. But Johnson made a leap before getting an impressive grab, which resulted in him getting swarmed by his defensive teammates. Johnson has been proving his worth in the secondary lately, but he also continued to show off as a kick returner, giving him the position flex that Rivera values.
-- The defense has been developing a habit of ending practice with an interception. It was Jordan Kunaszyk on Sunday, and Troy Apke received the honor today. Apke has been putting together some solid practices since moving to cornerback at the start of camp. He's likely fighting for a roster spot, but so far he's been holding his own against the talented receiver group. Like the rest of the team, we shall see how that holds up on Thursday.
-- Terry McLaurin has been working on his patience in camp, and Rivera sees that effort in how he runs his routes. There are times, the head coach said, when receivers will get anxious and break the route off sooner than he should. That's not the case with McLaurin; his route running is getting even better. It's starting to trickle down to the younger players, too, particularly to Dyami Brown, who has had more positive plays in recent practices.
-- It's clear watching Fitzpatrick and Adam Humphries that they have a good connection. Rivera said Fitzpatrick has been building a bond with the entire offense, but in Humphries' case, that shows itself the most in the intermediate down and distance plays, and Rivera said that's important because you get a feel that Fitzpatrick puts a lot of trust in Humphries to get open.