Training camp officially kicks off today for the Commanders. Today marks the beginning of seven months of continuous, non-stop football. While Head Coach Ron Rivera would not subscribe to the idea that 2022 is a “playoff or bust” season, he stated that his team expects to win games. So, for the Commanders, today marks the beginning of a critical juncture in the Rivera era. Rivera will get an idea of what his players and coaches are capable of heading into the season; understanding what collectively will work and what wouldn't work.
Training camp is all about competing and fighting for a roster spot or climbing up the depth chart for most players. For most teams, training camp is mainly about identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their roster.
Which position groups are the Commanders strong at, and where are they weak? We’ll discuss the most important position groups to follow in training camp.
The Commanders are starting camp with Chase Young on the PUP list, and there has been quite the turnover among the unit this off-season.
Emptying the notebook here. I know twitter & the media repeatedly put the onus on mainly 1 player on the DL not playing within the scheme, but it was a unit issue. Not just one player, multiple players. Warren Sapp’s message to these guys was a timely speech. #HTTC pic.twitter.com/B06MmKlaKz— Jamual (@LetMualTellit) July 25, 2022
A few players among the defensive line not named Chase Young abandoned their gaps or their rush path. The defensive line is still the defense's strength; nothing’s changed in that regard. However, it’s now time to buy into the defensive philosophy and learn how to make plays within it. With the addition of Phidarian Mathis and Efe Obada, Washington hopes that they can replenish the unit’s depth.
Training camp will be essential in seeing how Mathis and Obada look physically, along with the development of James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill, Shaka Toney, and Bunmi Rotimi. This group took snaps for Montez Sweat and Young when each missed time due to injury last year.
Who’s going to step up at the tight end spot? Logan Thomas, like Young, was placed on PUP. John Bates is presumed the number one tight end in Thomas’s absence, but Washington has two to three more depth spots to fill. Cole Turner has a lot of hype behind his name and has playmaking potential at the catch point that seems promising. Does the hype die down or increase with the pads on and an uptick in physicality? What about the undrafted free agents Curtis Hodges and Armani Rogers; what can they bring to the offense? Like Turner, they are athletic big men who present matchup problems in the passing game. How will they stand out when their number is called?
Washington is giving a second chance to TE convert Antonio Gandy-Golden, entering his first camp at a new position. The question will be more about how he can hold up as a blocker than it is anything else. But also, will his performance in this camp be strong enough to supplant Hodges, Rogers, or even Sammis Reyes? There are a lot of “names” within this position, but someone has to step up and fill in the vacant hole Thomas left before expectations continue any further.
Rivera gave his thoughts about the linebacker position yesterday afternoon and the potential of adding a veteran down the road.
“Well, we feel very good about the group. We like who they are. We think they fit for what we want to do and how we want to do it. We’re going to see what we got the first week before we make any decisions in terms of a veteran guy. We feel we got a pretty good group that fits what we want to do. Probably the biggest thing is it’s not just about the linebacker per se, as much as what we plan to do with the Buffalo position as well.” - Rivera on if he is comfortable with the linebacker group.
Rivera has made it clear through his quotes over the last few months that he is in wait-and-see mode with this position group, specifically Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis. Training Camp will be a critical evaluation for the position because if Rivera’s evaluation determines that Washington needs to add a linebacker, one of Holcomb or Davis will lose a considerable amount of playing time. Furthermore, it may indicate that whoever loses time may have a different projected future during their stint in Washington.
Davis is looking to prove the coaches right in their decision to select him in the first round, and Holcomb is looking to prove the coaches right in entrusting him to lead the defense altogether.
I intentionally left a couple out of the list, so let’s hear it. What are some important position groups to follow during Training Camp for you?