You can’t draw many solid conclusions from the OTAs and minicamp. They are just controlled, careful practices that are more focused on installation and coaching. However, some indications do emerge. It’s worth paying attention to anything that keeps cropping up over the course of things.
Winner: CB Benjamin St-Juste
When St-Juste was drafted in the third round by the Washington Football Team, his selection was greeted by a lot of puzzled expressions and fans asking, “Who’s that?”
Well, the times they are a’changin’. St-Juste is rapidly making a name for himself with his teammates, coaches and the beat reporters who were there to watch practice.
There were reports of the rookie cornerback breaking up passes to Terry McLaurin and Dyami Brown, as well as a report of an “almost” interception that St-Juste couldn’t hold onto. Suddenly, the buzz around the Washington media and fan base is that St-Juste may see the field on a regular basis as a man-press boundary corner. He’ll have to show the same and more in training camp and preseason to create the opportunity to get on the field frequently when the games count, but St-Juste made the most of the sessions in May and June.
Winner: LB Jamin Davis
There are high expectations for Davis, but what made him a winner in minicamp and OTAs was that he was challenged by the coaches to step in at the MIKE linebacker spot where he was responsible for calling plays. Learning a defense for any rookie is a challenge. Learning the entire defense and taking a leadership role by calling the plays in May and June is a huge challenge.
Based on the comments of coaches and reports from the local media who were there, Davis handled the role well. Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio indicated that, while things weren’t always perfect, Davis is smart and communicates well.
There has been little question that Jamin Davis has the physical skills to excel at linebacker, and coaches have said repeatedly since he was drafted that he would be capable of playing all three LB spots. At 6’3” and 234 pounds, Davis is a physical specimen. The biggest questions about him as draft prospect had to do with his relative lack of experience as his college career was limited to 25 games. Early indications that he is capable of the leadership role that comes with playing middle linebacker counts as a big early win. We’ll find out in August if he’s capable of doing what’s needed in a real game situation.
Linebacker coach Steve Russ was very excited about first-round draft pick Jamin Davis, praising his athleticism, instincts and intelligence. Russ added that Davis is passionate about the sport in meetings and that he cares about learning what’s happening with the entire defense, not just his own assignments. This is important for a linebacker, who is in the middle of everything, and especially so if Davis is to someday become the defensive signal caller. Russ said that Davis has been spending time at the MLB position since that is the spot he played at Kentucky and Russ believes it is important to create some familiarity for an incoming rookie, but he stressed that Davis has the ability to play all the linebacker positions.
Loser: LB Jon Bostic
Veteran middle linebacker Bostic was not present for mandatory minicamp. Head coach Ron Rivera said after the first day that the linebacker was an excused absence, but it was a surprise to me that he missed the entire week, though he was a participant in the voluntary OTAs earlier.
Bostic has been a target of criticism by some observers who say that he is too slow and lacks the ability to cover NFL tight ends and running backs. Some, like our own Mark Tyler, have projected that in 2021, if Bostic makes the roster, he could come off the field when the team goes to nickel coverage, and that, with the team’s depth at the safety position, Jack Del Rio may opt for a 4-2-5 alignment that utilizes two linebackers and three safeties.
This is why it’s so significant that Jamin Davis is apparently mastering the defensive playcalling. For the past two seasons, Bostic has been an every-down linebacker and the unit’s playcaller. For him to come off the field, the playcalling duties have to reside elsewhere. If Davis proves himself capable, then we could see, as Mark Tyler has repeatedly suggested, Davis and Holcomb as the every-down linebackers while Bostic is relegated to a part time role.
Bostic’s absence from minicamp also raises the question of whether he will be on the final roster at all. Washington is the sixth team the journeyman linebacker has played for in his career, and the team could save $2.69m against the salary cap by releasing him. I’m not sure they have the linebacker depth to be able to cut him entirely, but it seems quite possible that we could see Bostic’s role reduced from last year’s team-leading 1,034 defensive snaps.
Winner: RB Jaret Patterson
OTAs and minicamp put the spotlight on skill players like quarterbacks, receivers, rushers and defensive backs more so than other positions because there’s no hitting. Athletic traits like speed, shiftiness and pass catching abilities stand out in practice sessions where there is no real blocking or tackling.
Running backs coach Randy Jordan said that the team is excited about UDFA Jaret Patterson, saying that he’s showing a good ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and run, which is something they hadn’t seen initially on tape. A huge key for Patterson, said Jordan, is his ability to develop as a pass protector if he wants to get on the field in games.
No one really doubted Jaret Patterson’s athleticism. After all, he ran for over 3,800 yards in college. Patterson’s best full season came in 2019, when he put up almost 1,800 yards rushing, over 200 yards receiving, and scored 20 touchdowns!
In 2020, his season was limited to six games due to COVID. The amazing thing is that in just six games, he rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 19 touchdowns! Incredible.
In fact, in a single game against Kent State last year, he had 36 carries for 409 yards and 8 touchdowns, just 18 yards short of the all-time college single-game rushing recorded held by former Washington Redskins running back, Samaje Perine.
The issue for Patterson that kept him from being drafted was that his production came as a player at a small school program; he played for Buffalo. Scouts wondered how he would look against NFL competition.
Again, OTAs and minicamp are not the same as regular season or even preseason games — they are more akin to flag football given that players are never taken to the ground — but it is still possible to see speed, explosiveness, vision and shiftiness on display. NFL coaches, players and media were all impressed with what they saw from Patterson as a runner in these sessions.
What was surprising to some was that the diminutive back also demonstrated the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and run with it, which was something he hadn’t really been asked to do in college.
While there’s a long way to go for the undrafted rookie, his three weeks of OTAs and minicamp laid a solid foundation for his chances to make the Washington roster in 2021 and hopefully launch himself into a productive NFL career.
Which of these players was the biggest winner from OTAs & minicamp?
This poll is closed