ASHBURN, Va. -- Temperatures may have cooled off a bit in the nation's capital, but things kicked up a notch Tuesday, the Commanders' sixth day of training camp but first in pads. With the calendar flipping to August and Washington's first preseason game Aug. 11, the linemen especially appreciated being able to make more contact -- "everybody has that extra step" said guard Sam Cosmi, who described the day as "real fun" -- and the crowd didn't mind it, either.
Here were the main takeaways:
Sam Howell shows deep-ball touch
Sam Howell had a solid day, showing off his arm strength especially on throws toward the sideline and displaying some short-throw accuracy. Among the highlights:
- In one-on-ones between wide receivers and defensive backs, Howell threw a perfect deep ball down the right sideline to Dyami Brown, who got behind Benjamin St-Juste. That was certainly a crowd-pleaser, and it came immediately after Howell had missed 5-foot-8 rookie Kazmeir Allen just a hair high deep down the middle.
- Howell also had accurate shorter throws to Dax Milne and Curtis Samuel, who made an especially good low catch. Howell's ball placement on these throws was key: low, where only his receiver can get it.
- In Howell's first series of 11-on-11, he fired two accurate passes to Jahan Dotson. The second completion was an easy pitch-and-catch near the sideline after Dotson beat Christian Holmes, who ended up on his backside.
- In goal-line work, Howell found Logan Thomas for a touchdown.
- In seven-on-seven work, Howell had a strong opening series, spreading the ball to four different receivers on his first four throws before missing Brown deep. The best throw of the series was a nice second-level pass to Antonio Gibson, who received praise from running backs coach Randy Jordan for "having a feel" and finding an opening.
- Back to 11-on-11 work, Howell found Terry McLaurin for the first-team offensive highlight of the day:
- McLaurin is very good at football.
As for non-highlights, Howell just missed Samuel deep down the middle on the final throw of the session. Earlier, Howell rolled right to extend a play, missed Brown deep and was nearly picked off by St-Juste. Howell also had a botched handoff with Gibson early in the session. It appeared like Gibson was expecting to go into pass protection.
Overall, though, it was a good day for Howell, who had fewer misses
Offensive line, defensive line finally go head to head
With the pads on, we got to see more realistic battles in the trenches and plenty of trash talk, with defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat being the most vocal throughout the day. The one-on-one portion of offensive line vs. defensive line included:
- Young winning his final rep of the session against Trent Scott, going to the outside and using strong hands. Young was clearly excited, high-stepping back to his fellow defensive linemen.
- The starting offensive line seems relatively set with, from left to right, Charles Leno Jr., Saahdiq Charles, Nick Gates, Cosmi and Andrew Wylie. The battle for depth, especially on the interior, is a storyline. Today, third-round rookie center Ricky Stromberg and second-year tackle Alex Akingbulu had some strong reps against backup defensive linemen.
- But the highlight of the session was undrafted rookie offensive lineman Mason Brooks stonewalling Phidarian Mathis on consecutive reps. Brooks, who started his college career at Western Kentucky, transferred to Ole Miss and then impressed in the pre-draft process, was a priority UDFA for the Commanders, according to Ben Standig of The Athletic, and reps like those showed why. Tight ends coach Juan Castillo was ecstatic.
- Other quick notes: Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne showed why they're arguably the league's best interior defensive lineman duo with a pair of impressive reps. Third-year end William Bradley-King also notched some pass-rushing wins. Benning Potoa'e had the funniest moment of one-on-ones, beating his man and then picking up the "quarterback" (an assistant) and carrying him several yards.
Defensive backs young and old continue to stand out
The Commanders' strength this season will almost certainly be their defense, with major talent on the line and in the secondary.
- First-round pick Emmanuel Forbes is getting plenty of opportunities to learn on the fly, often matching up with McLaurin or Dotson. He also had good coverage in a one-on-one rep against Byron Pringle. The 6-foot corner, listed at 173 pounds, definitely has a slim build but can really run and recover, and his aggressive play has stood out on shorter throws as well.
- Second-round pick Quan Martin rotates in a lot with the starters as well. He can play both corner and safety and, regardless, will play a lot.
- As for the veterans, St-Juste has had a good camp, and Kendall Fuller had a nice breakup in a rep against McLaurin.
- The top of secondary depth chart is pretty settled and impressive, with St-Juste, Fuller and Forbes at corner, Kamren Curl and Darrick Forrest as versatile safeties and Martin all over. Percy Butler is also in the safety mix alongside All-Pro special teamer Jeremy Reaves.
Odds and ends
- Brown continues to have a strong camp, rounding out the top four wide receivers behind McLaurin, Dotson and Samuel. Special teams will have a large say in the remainder of that position: Milne, Allen and Dotson are among the players getting returner reps, and former Chiefs wide receivers Marcus Kemp and Pringle can also help on special teams.
- Gibson had a strong burst behind the left side of the line in 11-on-11 drills. There aren't many run plays in these settings due to the lack of tackling, but that one stood out.
- Eric Bieniemy continues to be the most vocal presence in practice, and he'll show his frustration. On multiple occasions, he forced the offense to re-huddle if he didn't like what he saw, at one point shouting, "set the (expletive) tone!"
- Brycen Tremayne, a 6-foott-4 undrafted rookie from Stanford, made one heck of a catch over a defender on a deep shot from Jacoby Brissett.
The Commanders continue training camp Wednesday.