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Wharton pleased with players' willingness to learn at Senior Bowl


Travelle Wharton had a schedule for how he thought his week of being the national team's offensive line coach at the Senior Bowl would go. So, naturally, not much has gone the way he thought it would. 

That is to be expected with all the unknown factors that come with college all-star games, where players from across the country are working together for the first time. All of them are speed-running through an offense they have never worked in before, and that understandably comes with a learning curve. 

So, Wharton has had to spend a little more time on certain plays than he anticipated, but he does not view that as a waste. Actually, he has been pleased with how eager his players are to learn as much as they can in a short amount of time. 

"A lot of these guys haven't been afraid to ask questions," Wharton told Logan Paulsen. "And I love that, because I don't want to go over something or skip over something that you don't know."

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Wharton knew that players were going to have a list of questions throughout the week. Not only is the offense that national team head coach Patrick Graham brought over from the Las Vegas Raiders a new one to them, but it is also a system that most will not have to learn again in their professional careers.

So, Wharton expected questions, but he thought it would end up being one person who would act as the "point person" for the other players who might have the same issues understanding the concepts. But Wharton has been pleasantly surprised to see that multiple players have approached him to ask for extra pointers.

And Wharton encourages that, too, because it creates a dialogue that leads to them correcting their issues.

"Everybody's giving you the generic head nod," Wharton said. "And so, I was like, 'Man, don't give me the generic head nod. I sat there [as a college prospect], I know that. Ask me the question so we can go over it. Because if you don't know it, somebody else has that question.' They've done a great job across the board of just asking questions."

All of that is a positive for Wharton, because it was one of the things he wanted to see from his players throughout the week. Of course, he wants them to work on nuances like hand and hand placement on blocks, but he is just as interested in seeing them understand corrections and implement them in practice.

"A lot of things, you're not going to know," Wharton said. "But just understand that concept … Where are we trying to go? Don't set inside if we're trying to go outside. Just little things like that. You're not going to know the play fully. We only have a certain amount of time, but just being able to come off the ball, be physical and have that understanding."

Having that knowledge also allows Wharton's players to play fast, which he believes is one of the most critical components for them to grasp.

"If you miss him [your assignment], go full speed," Wharton said. "You got some tremendous backs. They're gonna make you right half of the time. They're gonna put the linebacker where he needs to be. Stay on your track … Let's take care of the down guys [defensive linemen]. If we can take care of the down guys, it's not a loss of yardage."

Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew have admitted that addressing the offensive line is a need for the Commanders this offseason. They want to get younger at the position, and Wharton is in the ideal spot to evaluate the players attending the practices in Mobile, Alabama.

If one of them can show the right kind of growth during their time with the Commanders position coach, they could be one of the next players to start their professional careers wearing burgundy and gold.

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