ASHBURN, Va. -- The Commanders have plenty of notable new names entering this season, but the biggest one at Washington's first day of training camp Wednesday didn't have on a jersey, has never taken an NFL snap and never will. New owner Josh Harris took in practice on a sweltering day at the team's facility in northern Virginia.
"Super excited to have him out here, obviously super grateful for him taking over the team," quarterback Sam Howell said. "I think it's an awesome deal for us. The fans are excited, there's a lot of momentum for the team. So, it's just an awesome opportunity to be on this team right now with so much momentum. So, really, it's our job as players to go out there and capitalize on the field."
The practice lasted about 90 minutes, with only media in attendance. Fans will be able to take in practice Thursday, and practices will lengthen out to up to 120 minutes as the team gets deeper into camp, according to head coach Ron Rivera.
Rivera was pleased with how things went, saying he liked the tempo with which the team practiced, and both the offense and defense had good moments throughout the day. While it's only the first day, it's also the only first day, so there's certainly some insight to be gleaned. Here are the biggest takeaways:
- Howell made some strong throws in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, including accurate balls to running backs Antonio Gibson (in 7-on-7) and Brian Robinson (in 11-on-11) on down both sidelines. Robinson's catch was one of the highlights of the day, with the second-year running back reaching out with his right hand to corral the over-the-shoulder throw.
- Logan Thomas has another one of the offense's best plays, using his large catch radius to bring in a high ball from Howell away from the defender.
- Though he missed on a few throws, Howell did not have a turnover. He also fit some balls into tight coverage, including on a short route to Terry McLaurin.
What they're saying
- Howell on how he stayed fresh between OTAs and training camp: "Obviously studying the playbook itself, you know. I have different ways that I kind of go about studying that. I do a lot of like walkthroughs in my head and I like call plays and play it on my phone and act like I'm calling it a huddle, then walk through it, just stuff like that."
- Howell on his focus this offseason: "I'm always trying to get better mentally and be more comfortable in this system. I think I did a lot of good work at that stuff and then just get with my private quarterback coach back home, Anthony Boone, and working on my feet and tying my feet to the concepts that we have."
- Howell on not taking anything for granted: "I'm not complacent at all. I know still everything is ahead of me and I still got to go out there and earn it and prove it each and every day so I'm going to continue to do that."
- Gibson on Howell: "He's been showing it since OTAs, stepping up, being the leader, being vocal, making sure guys know where they need to be and, you know, putting guys where they need to be. He looks relaxed, he looks fine and I'm excited about this year for him. I think he's going to do great and I'm looking forward to it."
Logan Thomas and Chase Young both practice brace-free
- Both Thomas and defensive end Chase Young suffered ACL injuries in 2021 and didn't look the same in 2022. Both practiced without a brace Wednesday, another positive sign in their recovery process.
- Rivera on Thomas and Young: "I was fortunate I didn't have [an ACL injury], but just seeing these guys and seeing how spry they look right now and just bouncing around, it's pretty exciting. It really is."
- Rivera on Young: "I was very pleased with it. I mean, he had a good offseason, I do know that. I followed him on social media and every now and then, he'd send me a little text to show me what he's been doing.
- Rivera anticipates Young -- one of the team's most notorious trash talkers -- to amp things up as the fans arrive and camp moves on. "You will hear Chase, that's for sure."
Defense looks strong
- Even without Daron Payne (who sat out practice with a "very minor" toe injury, the Commanders' front seven looked good. Montez Sweat appeared to have a would-be sack of Howell on one drive, and there was plenty more pressure.
- The defensive backfield should be a strength: At safety, Kamren Curl had close coverage on a pass intended for McLaurin that ended up incomplete, and Darrick Forrest was plenty active as well. At cornerback, returning starters Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St. Juste were joined by first-round pick Emmanuel Forbes, who had good coverage on Byron Pringle on a deep incompletion and was stride-for-stride with McLaurin on a short completion. Second-round rookie Quan Martin should provide versatility.
- Terrell Burgess, D.J. Stirgus, Ferrod Gardner and Christian Holmes all had interceptions for the defense. Forrest said there's been an added emphasis on turnovers this offseason.
Odds and ends
- The competition for receiver depth could be an interesting one. There seems to be a clear top four of McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown. After that, there are a pair of former Chiefs in Pringle and Marcus Kemp, who are familiar in Eric Bieniemy's system, among plenty of others.
- Speaking of wide receivers, Dax Milne, Jahan Dotson, Kazmeir Allen, Kyric McGowan and Mitchell Tinsley were in punt return drills.
- Speaking of Bieniemy, he makes his presence felt with his booming voice. He stopped one wide receiver drill to do some fine-tuning and had plenty of instructions throughout 7-on-7 in particular.
- The Commanders brought in Michael Badgley as kicking competition for Joey Slye. Rivera said, "I'm expecting to bring the best out of our guys," and added it's similar to bringing in Brissett as competition for Howell.