After a strong performance in the preseason opener, Howell continued that momentum this week in Washington’s joint practices with the Baltimore Ravens.
When the Commanders’ joint practices concluded Wednesday, Rivera was asked if he was ready to name a starting quarterback.
“Well, again, I said I gotta sit down with both [OC] Eric [Bieniemy] and [QB coach] Tavita [Pritchard] and really evaluate it and make sure he’s doing the things that we need him to do,” Rivera said.
“And yesterday, he had a really good day. We’re really pleased with it after having to watch the tape, and we’ll see how it is after we get a chance to watch this tape together. We’re traveling today, so we’ll sit down tomorrow and go through it and talk about Sam and really just evaluate that and evaluate Jacoby as well. I mean, Jacoby did some really good things, too, so we feel really comfortable about the quarterback room right now.”
Rivera didn’t say it officially, but there’s no way Howell isn’t starting Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.
In some...positive injury news, Benjamin St-Juste was back on the field and dressed in full pads. He didn’t look bothered by the calf injury that kept him out of practice the past few days, and he even recorded a pass breakup while working against Devin Duvernay in the middle of the field.
— Some of the Commanders’ backups stood out in seven-on-seven drills, showing once again just how strong the team’s secondary has become this offseason. Danny Johnson was the first to record a pass breakup and on the next play, Tariq Castro-Fields was able to bat a pass away himself.
— With roster decisions on the horizon for the Commanders, discussions around whether to keep players like seventh-round pick Andre Jones have ramped up. For Jones specifically, head coach Ron Rivera believes he has exceeded their expectations.
“Wow, he’s a dynamic young man,” Rivera said. “His talent and his abilities did flash, he’s a guy we have to pay attention to.”
Logan Thomas has been sidelined since Aug. 4 with a calf strain, and though his absence has afforded younger tight ends additional reps, it has also shown his value to the offense. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Thomas is built like a power forward but plays with the physicality of a linebacker.
Cole Turner has shown growth year over year in training camp, but in Washington’s two practices against the Ravens, he had at least a few balls stripped, and he dropped others. Two practices alone are hardly a gauge of a player’s future, but Thomas’s value was obvious in his absence; his strength as he makes a catch is unmatched among Washington’s tight ends.
Five ends (Obada, Jones, James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill and fifth-round draft pick KJ Henry) appear to be competing for three or four spots.
On the offensive line, Chris Paul and Saahdiq Charles are battling at left guard, and two centers, veteran Tyler Larsen and third-round draft pick Ricky Stromberg, are competing for backup guard/center. The situation favors Stromberg, who is younger, but the coaching staff likes Larsen, too.
Head coach Ron Rivera heaping praise on the seventh-round rookie Andre Jones Jr. from Louisiana is worth watching. Jones has stood out all summer. He stood out in the game vs. the Browns. Against the Ravens in practice with Chase Young sidelined, Jones even got some work with the ones. That’s noticeable. He’s making the team.
What does that mean for fellow rookie K.J. Henry? Who the Commanders keep at defensive end is going to be interesting. They are extremely deep there. But you can count on Jones making the roster. Him getting time on special teams and with the ones tells you how the team feels about him.
Hope for peace faded quickly as the Washington Commanders and Baltimore Ravens didn’t wait long before cranking up the tension on Day 2 of joint practices.
That’s how long we got into actual practice before the first fight of the day.
We were over on the other side of the field keeping a close eye on the Commanders defense when our attention was drawn to the offensive vs the Ravens defensive line one-on-one drills drew our attention.
By the time we looked up the scrum was large and more than a few players were on the ground while others still standing were grabbing and swinging.
Once the play resumed on the practice field we took note of how effective Washington’s defense was against the first-team Ravens offense and quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Jackson found it difficult to find open receivers throughout the practice with some of the misses coming because of solid defense and some coming from inaccurate passes.
How did McLaurin think the Commanders offense functioned against Ravens’ opposition?
“I think one thing that was really impressive was offensively; our tempo was really good. It kinda showed why we practice at the high intensity we do. I feel like we got to a place where we were really efficient. But it is still the little details that are coming up for us, the procedural things. EB says those are mental errors. The mental errors we have to cut back on, myself included.”
It is good to hear McLaurin lauding his teammate (Fuller), his coordinator (Bieniemy) and being certain to include himself in those that need to do better. Once again, Terry is displaying his leadership.
Bullock’s Film Room
A compilation of smaller notes from the Commanders’ offense in the preseason opener against the Browns.
For those that are new here and haven’t seen my Emptying The Notebook posts before, the idea is for me to be able to talk about a few smaller notes I had from watching the All-22 that didn’t necessarily merit a full post on their own. That means this post is going to jump from point to point rather than stay on a single theme or player, but it allows me to touch on multiple smaller details worth highlighting. Today I’m focusing on the offensive side of the ball from the preseason opener against the Browns, tomorrow I’ll do the same thing with the defense.
Cole Turner run blocking
With Logan Thomas sidelined currently due to injury, Cole Turner has seen an increased workload with the first team offense. He had a few catches, including a key play where he worked off-script on fourth down to make himself available for Sam Howell. While Turner is still far more of a receiving threat than a run blocker, he did show some encouraging signs of development as a run blocker in this game. His technique on zone runs still needs a lot of work, but he made a few nice blocks on some gap scheme runs.
Turner still has a long way to go as a run blocker if he wants to be considered a legitimate well-rounded tight end. But clearly he’s been working on that side of his game, which is only a good thing. Half the battle with young athletic receiving tight ends is the willingness to try and develop as a blocker, but that doesn’t appear to be an issue for Turner.
Wide receiver (6): Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Dax Milne, Mitchell Tinsley
Skip past the top four and consensus fades. Milne’s hands and route running might be enough to stick, even if the shifty Allen handles punt return duties. The safe play might be to keep Pringle, 29, considering his experience with new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy from Kansas City. Rivera views Brown — a contested-catch marvel at North Carolina — as their “big” receiver, even at 6-foot-0. That mindset hurts 6-4 ex-Chief Marcus Kemp’s chances (as do several drops in camp).
Tinsley is a stretch to stay right now based on his limited production in practice. But Washington’s only undrafted free agent in Dane Brugler’s final top 300 prospects is precise with his routes and has worked frequently with the second team in practice, perhaps to the chagrin of QB3; Fromm called Tinsley “a definite go-to for me, especially in man coverage.”
Allen shined as a pass catcher in Monday’s practice and makes for a fun target in space. The 6-4 Tremayne stands out as typically the first player on the field for every practice and a big wideout capable of stretching the field.
Safety (5): Kamren Curl, Darrick Forrest, Quan Martin, Percy Butler, Jeremy Reaves
There’s a case for St-Juste as camp’s most outstanding player, and the secondary at least rivals the defensive line as the top unit. Forbes, not surprisingly, is easily the best rookie. Curl is hungry for turnovers, and you can feel Forrest and Butler itching to hit someone. There will probably be a sixth cornerback for the final 53, but nobody stands out from the remaining options. The presence of four outside corners and two safeties (Curl and Martin) who can play in the slot allows me to use the roster spot elsewhere. The newly signed Kalu is another multi-positional safety to consider.
Commanders kept the intensity high
As previously stated, things got out of hand during the first joint practice and the two head coaches brought an abrupt end to proceedings. It didn’t look like Wednesday’s session would run that long after a few skirmishes early, but everyone focused on the task at hand once they got this extra aggression out of their system.
The Washington Commanders didn’t back down an inch and more importantly, kept the intensity high throughout. Ron Rivera’s preached the importance of controlled physicality throughout camp, which has clearly been taken on board by his players in their quest to improve before Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals arrives.
Commanders position flex ethos brings problems
The problem, which I think is endemic to this particular Washington Commanders coaching staff led by Ron Rivera, is that they are constantly asking players to perform in positions that do not suit them best. This all stems from recruiting versatility rather than position specific.
Jamin Davis should be playing the edge in a 3-4 front. Coming out of college, he was probably a little too small to play there, but with an additional 10-15 pounds, he could thrive in that spot.
He would rush the passer and occasionally drop into coverage. Davis’ running reads would be easier and he could use his speed to chase down runners on the opposite side of the field. I think you will see him line up in this position more this year if his physical attributes take another leap forward.
Cody Barton is an ideal inside linebacker in a 3-4 base system. If the former Seattle Seahawk played behind a quality nose tackle, he could be a tackling machine.
Khaleke Hudson is probably better off playing the weakside role that Kevin Pierre-Louis occupied in 2020. The trouble is, the Commanders really don’t use one anymore. They have one of their safeties assume that role much of the time.
It became obvious last year that Washington’s base defense had become a 4-2-5. That’s not uncommon in this era of passing. On many downs, teams simply don’t need three linebackers on the field. Often they don’t even need two.
Except when they do.
DC Sports King
The Washington Commanders are feeling the impact of having new ownership. The NFL franchise announced a new sponsorship deal with communication technology power Verizon.
The corporate sponsorship is the Commanders’ first under the ownership of Josh Harris. Harris’ purchase of the NFL team got finalized last month.
Verizon will provide connectivity throughout the Commanders’ home stadium, FedEx Field. The aim is to “enhance the fan experience,” which includes helping fans get through concession lines faster.
Podcasts & videos
️We're back, hurtin' voice and all.— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) August 17, 2023
Commanders' 2 days facing the Ravens w/ @Matthew_Paras. QB1 Sam Howell, DL intrigue, ongoing concerns, facility envy.
For full context, @jeffzrebiec on how Ravens fared vs their usual camp practices. Forbes vs WRs.https://t.co/cSvy6OuMc7
Episode 635 - #Commanders-#Ravens practices begin. The fights got most of the attention. But Sam Howell & the offense are coming along. I discuss key comments from Ron Rivera & Terry McLaurin & more.— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) August 16, 2023
Also: #Nats (what's wrong w/ Josiah Gray?) & #Orioles.https://t.co/3KzKneld7V
Tap in to the latest Trap or Dive ️ @LetMualTellit @_nicktrip @ryreed07 @ItsjustBriggs talks— Trap or Dive Podcast (@TraporDive) August 15, 2023
- Winners/losers of Preseason WK1.
- Zeke / Dalvin in the AFCE
- Johhny Football & more!
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Training Camp: Defense Wins Day 2 with Baltimore Ravens as Fights Continue
Marlon Humphrey: Sam Howell looks really comfortable in Commanders offense. https://t.co/KZf0zpYM4C— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 16, 2023
NFC East links
EAGLES: The Eagles don’t have a ton of starting jobs open, but safety remained fluid heading into this week’s joint practices against the Browns. Reed Blankenship has built on his work from last season and appears to have one of the starting gigs sewn up. The other spot looks to be up for grabs. Terrell Edmunds, who started for the Steelers last season, has yet to claim it. He’s been pushed most of camp by special-teams standout K’Von Wallace, plus lately by rookie Sydney Brown. The third-rounder from Illinois made nine tackles in 41 defensive snaps against the Ravens and was highly active. Can he overtake Edmunds and Wallace? Or might the Eagles look for outside help at safety? The next two preseason games will weigh heavily.
GIANTS: There were some anxious moments when first-round CB Deonte Banks started slowly early in training camp, but that anxiety appears to have chilled a bit, with Banks earning first-team reps and stepping up his play. No matter how you spin it, the Giants’ cornerbacks will be a question mark heading into the season. Considering how well sixth-rounder Tre Hawkins III has played to date, there’s a chance two rookies will start this season alongside Adoree’ Jackson. Darnay Holmes and 2022 third-rounder Cor’Dale Flott also are vying for reps, and Aaron Robinson could once he’s off PUP. But Banks and Hawkins are two ascending players who have another good chance to secure roles with strong outings Friday vs. Carolina.
COWBOYS: Damone Clark has been a bit washed away amid other Cowboys training-camp stories, but the second-year linebacker has apparently taken a big step forward and figures to have a prominent role in what should be a very strong Dallas defense. As a rookie, Clark missed all of camp and last season’s first eight games while rehabbing a serious neck injury. He received regular snaps on defense down the stretch, but made very few big plays and received zero defensive snaps in two postseason games. But in this year’s camp and last week’s preseason opener, Clark has been a first-team stalwart, appearing much more comfortable and aggressive in his approach. Against the Jaguars last Saturday, he had five tackles in 23 snaps. So I’ll be tuning into this Saturday nightcap to see whether he can stack impressive performances.
COMMANDERS: If there’s one preseason battle we’re hoping for this week, it’s two rookies squaring off: Ravens WR Zay Flowers against Commanders CB Emmanuel Forbes. Both have been the talk of their respective camps, with Forbes apparently having an eventful Day 1 of joint practices between the teams on Tuesday. First, Flowers beat him deep on one rep. Then Forbes knocked away a deep ball intended for Odell Beckham Jr. Finally, Forbes and Ravens WR Tylan Wallace got into a fight. The Commanders know the spindly Forbes is going to lose some battles this season, but they also have to love his scrappiness, in addition to his rare ball-hawking skills. If there’s a higher power, we’ll get some Flowers-Forbes matchups in Monday’s game to see which 2023 first-rounder can come out on top.
Darius Slay: We're going to call DeVonta Smith the best receiver in the league soon. https://t.co/yUUmA7SEBj— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 16, 2023
Joel Bitonio: Eagles took cheap shots at Deshaun Watson in joint practice. https://t.co/87QtPWcZzi— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 16, 2023
#eagles OC Brain Johnson has never called plays in the NFL. But he already has something with Jalen Hurts that is extremely valuable. Trust. Also where Johnson has been spending extra time during camp could help this offense during the season. My report on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/RKb1eBApcO— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) August 16, 2023
#Giants say OT Evan Neal has cleared concussion protocol. Had been in it since early this month.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 16, 2023
NFL league links
No. 16: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Washington Commanders
Washington addressed its lack of defensive takeaways last season by selecting the player who holds the NCAA record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns (six). Having watched Forbes throughout the summer, it’s easy to see why. His stellar anticipatory skills are apparent, and he’s typically around most balls thrown his way. There’s a question of how the rail-thin Forbes will hold up physically, but he hasn’t been shy about playing in traffic. Forbes will go through rookie struggles, but he will play — if not start — often this season.
Pro Football Talk
If the U.S. House of Representatives currently were controlled by the Democratic Party, the Committee on Oversight and Accountability would be referring former Commanders owner Daniel Snyder to the Department of Justice or prosecution. With the Republican Party controlling the House, and in turn the oversight committee, there will be no referral.
Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) asked committee chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) to make the referral on Wednesday. The committee quickly dismissed the possibility.
... get at least one running back in the first four rounds. I know, zero RBs sounds like a fun strategy — it’s not. It’s difficult, stressful and volatile; it’s possible to succeed with waiver wizardry and some luck, but it’s simply not a reliable strategy. You know what is reliable? A running back with 200 fantasy points. You know where they live? In the first four rounds. Nineteen backs had 200+ fantasy points in 2022. Fourteen of them had an average draft position in the first four rounds — including all of the top six finishers. These guys are anchors. Get one.
... account for changes in coaching and personnel. The Lions went from a bottom-10 offense in 2021 to a top-five unit in 2022. What changed? A new offensive coordinator in Ben Johnson. The minds on the sidelines are often just as important for fantasy as the lads in pads — it helps to know both. Are you aware the Ravens signed Odell Beckham Jr., drafted Zay Flowers and hired potentially pass-happy OC Todd Monken this offseason? If not, start reading. I recommend my colleague Adam Rank’s State of the Franchise series as a great primer.
... target top-tier offenses. This one kind of explains itself. Teams that score more points and gain more yards typically consist of players who score more points and gain more yards. Wild, I know. Some of my less obvious favorites in 2023: the Ravens, Jets, Dolphins and Vikings.