5 place battles to observe initially of Commanders coaching camp


For the primary time in three years, Coach Ron Rivera will open coaching camp with the advantage of having seen his gamers by a full offseason program. Rivera has extra info (and extra settled starters) than he did in his first two seasons, although some key gamers might not begin camp on the sphere, together with defensive finish Chase Younger (ACL) and tight finish Logan Thomas (ACL).

However when coaching camp kicks off Wednesday at 9 a.m. on the crew facility in Ashburn, there shall be a number of roles, together with a couple of beginning positions, at stake.

Listed here are 5 place battles to observe:

Beginning defensive finish (possibly)

James Smith-Williams vs. Casey Toohill vs. Efe Obada

If Chase Younger can not return for Week 1, which is feasible, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will want a bookend for Montez Sweat. The highest backups from final season, Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams, might compete with one another and veteran Efe Obada, one of many crew’s offseason signings.

Earlier than camp, it’s robust to inform who has the sting (pun meant). Del Rio might want Obada due to his expertise or dimension, or he might like Toohill or Smith-Williams due to final season. Within the second half of 2021, Rivera praised Toohill and Smith-Williams for following directions after Younger and Sweat had typically lacked rush-lane self-discipline and created holes for opposing offenses.

Benjamin St-Juste vs. Percy Butler vs. Darrick Forrest vs. Danny Johnson

When the protection is at full well being, seemingly the one place up for grabs is the slot. In base protection, the slot figures to be a linebacker; in most subpackages, it’s a nook or security.

Final season, Washington performed base solely 16 p.c of the time, in line with Soccer Outsiders, and performed greatest in subpackages with a three-safety set. This yr, Del Rio might attempt to replicate the success by changing Landon Collins, who was launched within the offseason, with Percy Butler or Darrick Forrest; each are bodily however inexperienced safeties.

If Washington needs extra true protection abilities, it might use Benjamin St-Juste — a protracted, promising nook who was restricted by concussions to 9 video games as a rookie in 2021 — or veteran Danny Johnson. In minicamp, St-Juste took a good number of first-team snaps at slot corner.

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Relying on scenario and opponent, Washington will probably use some mixture of those defensive backs all year long. However in 2020, Kam Curl confirmed one versatile, dependable participant is able to taking on the function of 11th defender.

Trai Turner vs. Wes Schweitzer

This battle didn’t manifest within the spring. Trai Turner took almost the entire first-team reps at proper guard whereas Wes Schweitzer stuffed in at middle for Chase Roullier (leg). If Roullier returns throughout camp, as he’s mentioned he expects to, it’d create a battle between two of the extra reliable linemen place coach John Matsko has had previously decade.

In Carolina from 2014 to 2019, Matsko helped Turner attain 5 consecutive Professional Bowls. In Washington in 2020 and 2021, he helped Schweitzer adapt to a number of positions throughout 18 begins.

Dax Milne vs. Cam Sims vs. Alex Erickson vs. Jequez Ezzard vs. Kelvin Harmon vs. Marken Michel vs. Kyric McGowan

If 4 receivers are already locked in — Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson, Dyami Brown — then there are seven others competing for the ultimate one to a few spots.

The favorites amongst them determine to be Dax Milne and Cam Sims, the one actual big-body goal at 6-foot-5 and 220 kilos. However particular groups usually decides bottom-of-the-roster spots, which might assist veteran Alex Erickson and undrafted free agent Jequez Ezzard, who each took returner reps within the spring.

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The ultimate three receivers — Kelvin Harmon, Marken Michel and Kyric McGowan — appear to face longer odds. Harmon and Michel are practice-squad vets, and although Michel impressed in minicamp, he’s, at 29, already tied because the second oldest talent participant on offense behind Logan Thomas (31). McGowan, an undrafted rookie, signed for a complete assure of solely $5,000, one of many lowest sums on this class.

De’Jon Harris vs. Milo Eifler vs. Drew White vs. Tre Walker vs. Ferrod Gardner vs. Bryce Notree vs. veteran signing

Although Rivera has talked about the necessity to enhance at linebacker because the starting of the offseason, the entrance workplace has not meaningfully addressed it past signing 4 undrafted free brokers. The crew might nonetheless signal a veteran earlier than or throughout camp — A.J. Klein and Anthony Barr are two choices — however it should probably journey a high two of Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis into the season.

On the depth chart, the strengths and limitations of the third and fourth ’backers — David Mayo and Khaleke Hudson — are well-known and create alternatives for youthful gamers, equivalent to sophomores De’Jon Harris and Milo Eifler and the 4 UDFAs (Tre Walker of Idaho, Ferrod Gardner of Louisiana, Drew White of Notre Dame and Bryce Notree of Southern Illinois).

In June, when requested why the crew hadn’t signed a veteran linebacker but, Rivera mentioned it had “recognized three of those younger guys that we actually like” and needed to offer them extra reps as a result of it could finally solely be capable to preserve one or two of them. He declined to call the gamers.

“We’ve talked about [them as coaches] … possibly twice per week for most likely the final three weeks and what we’ve seen in these three guys,” he mentioned, including, “As we get nearer to coaching camp, you recognize, we’ll begin deciding what our subsequent transfer’s going to be so far as personnel.”

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