Three hours before practice began Saturday, an unusual sight could be seen at the Washington Commanders’ facility: a handful of fans already waiting in line.
That handful turned into an estimated 10,000 fans — the highest number to watch a Washington practice in at least a decade.
It highlights the renewed excitement surrounding the team since a group led by Josh Harris bought the team from Dan Snyder, who had owned the team since 1999. The Snyder era was highlighted more by off-field issues than on-field success and the combination caused a slow erosion of the fan base.
“In light of the past three seasons, it was truly incredible,” coach Ron Rivera said Saturday. “... To see them come out in force today, that was excellent. Our players really appreciate it. I know our ownership appreciates the renewed interest.”
Saturday, the stands, which seat approximately 2,500, were full more than 30 minutes before practice began. When some players — notably running back Brian Robinson and defensive end Chase Young — walked to the field, they detoured to slap hands with fans.
This showing, on a day where the temperatures reached into the low 90s, followed two days where between 3,000 to 3,500 fans attended each practice. They never came close to those figures for any practice last summer. It’s an enthusiasm not seen probably since 2013, when the team trained in Richmond and was coming off a 10-6 season in Robert Griffin III’s rookie year.
We used to have these crowds every day [in the early 1980s],” said former Washington kicker Mark Moseley, the league MVP in 1983, who attended Saturday. “It’s exciting to see this kind of emotion again.”
Among the council, six members expressed to The Post clear opposition to using public funds for construction of a stadium, an early sign that, like in the debate with Nationals Park, tough choices over whether to use taxpayer money to fund a stadium may become a major inflection point.
Council member Matthew Frumin (D-Ward 3), who attended Bowser’s event Thursday, said in an interview afterward that he could imagine himself supporting a proposal for a football stadium at RFK — or not, if the proposal used public funds to directly fund the stadium construction.
Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) said she would be open to a stadium if the development also included retail, recreational facilities and affordable housing — but similarly drew a line against public stadium funding. “The team or the league should pay for the construction of the stadium,” she said. “However, the city should provide the infrastructure because we want all infrastructure in and around the development to be fully available for public use.”
Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7), whose ward includes RFK, Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) and Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (I-At Large) also expressed openness to a stadium. Gray perhaps summed up the moment best: “We are at the beginning of a process that is equally exciting and uncertain,” he said.
McDuffie, who chairs the economic development committee, has been out front as the unofficial ambassador on the council who enthusiastically supports returning the Commanders to RFK. “I see a future not simply of a world-class stadium, but a future with a world-class sports-entertainment district that includes housing for residents across incomes,” he told reporters after the Nationals Park event Thursday.
It took until Day 4, but Emmanuel Forbes grabbed his first pick of training camp, and he didn’t have to wait long for his first opportunity. On the second play of 11-on-11 drills, Forbes jumped a route from Terry McLaurin and caught the pass in stride. Coach Ron Rivera has been impressed with Forbes so far in camp, saying that the rookie has tremendous study habits and practices the way Rivera thinks he’s going to play.
Another defensive back who stood out today and throughout the first week of camp was Tariq Castro-Fields. He started the day with a pass breakup while working against Curtis Hodges, and he carried that momentum throughout Saturday’s practice. Later in the day, he showed off impressive closing speed during team drills by sprinting towards Chris Rodriguez for what would have been a tackle for loss in a game scenario.
“Right now my family is definitely excited,” he said. “I think my mom did an interview today. She’s excited. My auntie, my dad, everybody. They’re excited to get it rolling and just to see the new things that are about to start happening with the organization.”
I don’t know if Young’s going to return to form. My predicting skills are lousy. But, so are everyone else’s. Here’s what we know about Young’s career so far in D.C. 1) He had a monster rookie season. 2) He had a lousy second season, during which he suffered a major knee injury. 3) He needed a year to get back on the field, and looked out of sync when he returned late last season, wearing that big, bulky brace. And that’s all we know.
But, it’s the season of renaissance around here! If the franchise as a whole can begin to recover from two-plus decades of missteps and malfeasance in a week’s time, why can’t Young again become the disruptive edge force that all of us, including him, anticipated every year?
The earliest of the returns in camp are promising — but, they always are this time of year, aren’t they?
“You can ask him, but from what I’ve seen, he didn’t trust his ability last year, because he was injured,” said tackle Charles Leno Jr., who sees Young up close and personal from the other side of scrimmage. “Now, he’s just trusting himself.”
Bill Barnwell of ESPN recently named a combination of 20 NFL players, coaches and executives under the most pressure to perform in 2023. Young was on the list.
No pass-rusher came into the league with a more exciting résumé than Young, who was seen as potentially the best player available at any position when he came off the board with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Young did enough in his debut season to claim the defensive rookie of the year award, but he never built on his promising start. He had just 1.5 sacks and four knockdowns during the first half of 2021 before suffering a knee injury, then didn’t return before the final three weeks of the 2022 campaign.
The Commanders declined Young’s fifth-year option this spring. The hope might be that the move motivates Young, but the reality is the Commanders thought the level of play Young has shown so far hasn’t been worth the risk of guaranteeing him $17.5 million for 2024, even when that’s a relatively modest mark for edge rushers. With former college teammate Nick Bosa set to become the highest-paid defensive end in league history on a new extension this offseason, Young needs to turn things around to get back on track, with the $24.5 million franchise tag as a target for 2024.
If Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young is under any pressure to perform in 2023, he hasn’t shown it early in training camp. Young has looked excellent on the field early in camp, and in talking with the media this week, he seems relaxed and happy to be back with his teammates and coaches.
How do the Washington Commanders’ defense and special teams stack up against their NFC East rivals heading into the 2023 season?
Commanders position groups vs. NFC East - S
1. Dallas Cowboys
In much the same way that the New York Giants have rebuilt their disastrous offensive line, the Dallas Cowboys overhauled their safety room so that a major weakness has become a strength. In Donovan Wilson, Jayron Kearse, and Malik Hooker, they have a very solid trio of young veterans who provide great flexibility and playmaking from the back end.
The Cowboys even have a talented young developmental player Markquese Bell waiting in the wings.
2. Washington Commanders
Kamren Curl and Darrick Forrest may be the best young safety tandem in the league. I am a little worried about how Forrest performed when Curl missed some time last year, and I am a little worried that Percy Butler will never be as good an every-down player as his physical gifts would suggest.
But there will always be concerns about young players. With Jeremy Reaves and a couple of good developmental players on hand, the Washington Commanders’ back end looks very secure.
Commanders position groups vs. NFC East - DL
1. Washington Commanders
Every team in the division has multiple studs along the defensive line. But the Washington Commanders are the strongest across the board – interior, edge, depth.
They have three outstanding starters, along with a fourth in Chase Young who could return to form and become the best of them all. The Commanders also have the best group of interior linemen in the entire league.
If Young falters (or gets dealt), one or two of the many youngsters they have on the edge will have to step up. If not, the line is still very good, but not elite.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
Fletcher Cox may finally be slowing down. No matter. Rookie Jalen Carter and second-year defensive tackle Jordan Davis, both of the national champion Georgia Bulldogs, are on hand to carry on the tradition.
They lost Javon Hargrave to the San Francisco 49ers, but the Philadelphia Eagles still have Milton Williams to give them an interior rotation almost as formidable as Washington. Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat are very good ends, but Derek Barnett is returning from an ACL injury, which could hurt their depth.
First, the District needs to make sure it keeps the teams it has before it woos the teams it doesn’t. It should worry about the neighborhoods that exist and are struggling before it imagines transformations elsewhere. Monumental Sports and Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis wants the city to help with upgrades to Capital One Arena, a venue that was once credited with reviving the Chinatown area downtown.
Have you been there recently? It’s … edgy. The pandemic hit the neighborhood, and hard. The Capitals and Wizards provide 82 nights of regular season activity. Throw in preseason games for both, Georgetown men’s basketball games and concerts, and you’re looking at more than 100 dates that should help the neighborhood thrive. Take them away, and it’s a wasteland. As far as sports franchises go, that should be the District’s Priority No. 1.
According to Bradbury, most studies show that when an area develops around one arena or stadium, the money it attracts merely comes from another part of the city. “It’s just reallocated local consumption,” he said. More than that: Football stadiums are particularly lousy at bringing a return on their investments because they simply aren’t occupied as much.
While hosting “The Don Geronimo Show” on BIG 100, Geronimo, whose real name is Michael Sorce, referred to WUSA-TV sports anchor Sharla McBride as “Barbie girl” as she arrived to cover the team’s second day of camp. He added, “I’m guessing she’s a cheerleader,” and later referred to her as “that chick.”
“After an internal review, Don Geronimo is no longer an employee of WBIG,” Aaron Hyland, iHeartMedia’s D.C. regional president, said in a statement to The Washington Post on Saturday night. “We take matters of this nature very seriously and this behavior does not align with our core values.”
Following Thursday’s comments, the Commanders prohibited Geronimo and his producer, Crash Young, from broadcasting at the team’s facility Friday. Their taped interview with new Commanders owner Josh Harris that was promoted to run Friday never aired.
Podcasts & Video
Kevin and Thom today with a menu of excellence which includes a conversation about expectations for Josh Harris and the ownership group. Plus, Ron Rivera, Sean Payton, the Nats, Ohtani and more.— The Kevin Sheehan Show (@SheehanPodcast) July 28, 2023
Find it on all podcast platforms or:https://t.co/bYF4sso4Vw
The Rebirth— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) July 29, 2023
With Dan Snyder gone, Commanders fans have been flocking to training camp.
Just about 10,000 fans were in attendance today in Ashburn.
The team hasn't seen those kind of numbers since 2015!
Here is your Day 4 Commanders Training Camp report. pic.twitter.com/el9mgMh9Ka
Article from Bullock's Film Room:— Bill-in-Bangkok (@billhorgan2005) July 29, 2023
Commanders Training Camp Review: Brissett Interception https://t.co/l9JYggXNoh
New Commanders ownership has been using the prior team name. Ron Rivera says it's occurring with "utmost respect." But if it's a slur as the current name, isn't it also a slur as the former name? https://t.co/n5PVo3ZjBL— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 29, 2023
NFC East links
On Saturday, Prescott turns 30. He is the clear leader of the Cowboys, the last player remaining from the 2016 draft class with the departures of Ezekiel Elliott and Anthony Brown, and singularly focused on finding his way to the stage at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas after Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11, 2024, holding the Lombardi Trophy.
“It just speaks of urgency. Yeah, I’m blessed to play this game, blessed to be in this organization,” Prescott said. “But as you see, it’s a business. It’s not forever for everybody and I know what I want to do. I know what I want to accomplish and I know what this team wants. And it’s about that now.”
Troy Aikman was 29 when he won his last of three Super Bowls with the Cowboys in the 1990s. Roger Staubach was 29 when he won his first Super Bowl in 1971 and 36 when he appeared in his last in 1978, but he was 27 when he entered the NFL after his Navy commitment.
Fairly or not, every Cowboys quarterback is compared to those two Hall of Famers.
“Time is flying and for Dak to be 30 years old, you pinch yourself that he’s growing and I think the great news is, what I love about Dak, is he continues to have just an insatiable appetite to want to get better and be great,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said, adding, “He’s just driven to win a championship and I’m betting on it. I just think he’s special and we’re lucky to have him.”
“I want to understand what you are doing to try to stop me,” Parsons said. “I don’t think a lot of people invest in that. I invested in how I can get better, not only the things I do well already. I invested in all my weaknesses and I want to turn them into strengths.”
Parsons has been an outstanding quote his entire time in Dallas. It’s no surprise he provided several interesting takes over a 17-minute period Friday. But what makes what he says even more impactful is that he’s been able to back it up on the field.
“I spend a lot of time developing the mentality,” Parsons said. “It starts as soon as you wake up. We got thousands of choices every day. You make the choice if you want to brush your teeth. You make the choice if you want to make your bed. I feel like every morning when you accomplish little things, you’re setting yourself up the right way for success. I feel like for me, I just believe in behavior and actions. Rather than just saying I’m gonna do it. I wake up at 5:30, 6 a.m. even though I don’t want to in the offseason. I’m like, ‘Man, I gotta go hit this gym.’ Just because that’s my choice. I owe that to myself for what I want.
“I’ve come to this mindset where I’m just tired of being second, tired of coming up short. What can I do every day to put myself in the best position to say, ‘I can live with that’? So far I haven’t been able to live with the fact of us losing 19-12 (last season in the divisional round) and us losing that wild-card game my rookie year. I told this to the guys, ‘Is the price of discipline worth a lifetime of regret?’ And for me, it don’t.
Jerry Jones on Zack Martin: We need the money to pay Micah Parsons. https://t.co/FBZ559nHhW— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 29, 2023
NFL league links
When Robinson was selected in April, it quickly split the interested parties into two camps. Point: Great player, good fit in the offense. Counterpoint: Look at the data, you ignorant dinosaur.
“It’s a terrible pick,” Pete Prisco, a senior NFL columnist at CBS Sports, said after the draft. “He’s a good player, I get it, but what about position value? It’s crazy to think that you would use a top-10 pick on a back.”
Only 12 running backs have been selected in the first round since 2013, the draft that serves as a dividing line between the glory days for the ball carrier and the NFL’s shift to more pass-centric offenses. From 2000 to 2013, 39 running backs were taken in the first round, and 11 of those were taken in the top 10.
The last running back selected in the top 10 to go to the Super Bowl with his original team was Jamal Lewis, whom the Ravens selected fifth in the 2000 draft. Lewis was also the last running back (regardless of draft position) to average more than 40 percent of his team’s touches for a Super Bowl champion.
Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson, who was taken with the third pick this year by the Texans, called Robinson the “toughest person I faced in college football.”
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Robinson ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and broad jumped 10 feet, four inches at the NFL combine. The first 10 yards of his 40 were the third-fastest among running backs (1.52 seconds). Those traits transitioned immediately to Atlanta’s practice field during offseason workouts.
“We don’t have any buyer’s remorse, if that’s what you’re asking,” [head coach Arthur] Smith said during minicamp.