The defensive backs have a [very good] vibe about them. Again, chalk up some bravado to young people feeling indestructible and the nature of the position where a next-play mentality is required. Cooler heads appreciated the chance to test themselves against another team.
“I love it because you get out there and you just play ball,” Fuller said. “You just play what you see. And even that, that’s a little bit different from a game because, from a game, you got film that you can go out there and watch. From a technique standpoint, there’s no film, no knowledge of what they do. You just line up, play your technique and trust that your technique is gonna allow you to make plays.”
The secondary thwarted several passes during red zone work. Cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, safety Darrick Forrest and reserve cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields all had a pass deflection or forced an incompletion. Cornerback Danny Johnson and safety Percy Butler combined for excellent coverage on a deep throw at another point of practice.
“Everybody’s locked in,” Martin said. “We knew what we had to come out here and do today. So being able to lock in and go on the field and do what we said we were going to do is pretty good.”
Wednesday’s highlights included Curl’s matchup with Ravens Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews. Jackson fired a seam pass that Curl spotted quickly enough to make a play on Andrews at “his hands” for an incompletion. It’s the type of play against a high-level opponent that will generate more notoriety.
Front Office Sports
It has been nearly a month since taking control of the Washington Commanders, but Josh Harris is quickly helping the franchise rebound its financial fortunes.
On Wednesday, the franchise announced their first corporate partnership under new management. Anheuser-Busch — which had departed as a sponsor in March 2022 — returned as the team’s official beer sponsor as new multiyear deal was announced on Thursday.
Verizon will be the Commanders’ official 5G network under a deal that will lead to improvements to FedEx Field, the latest signal the franchise’s revenue streams that languished under prior owner Dan Snyder could be rebounding.
Harris is planning millions of improvements to FedEx Field in Landover, Md., although Verizon’s announced upgrades to the stadium won’t be fully in place until 2024. Verizon has been a longtime NFL partner.
The Commanders haven’t had a sponsorship deal with a mobile carrier for several years, and team had had some high-profile brand defections under [the former owner].
Deep in the red zone, the Washington Commanders’ defense rocked and jostled before the snap, yelling out tips and preparing to fire out of their stances. It was the usual group, stars on the line and stalwarts in the backfield, except for one spot. At right end was a new face shielded by a face mask, a jersey nameplate covered by dreadlocks, the most identifiable feature his unusual number: 48.
After the snap, No. 48 used his long arms to get into the Baltimore Ravens’ tackle and drive him back into the pocket. No. 48 let his linemates make moves to take a shot at quarterback Lamar Jackson while No. 48 stayed in his lane, doing his job. But when Jackson tucked the ball and stepped up to run, No. 48 shed his blocker and put himself in position to make the tackle. If it had been a real game, not joint practices in mid-August, No. 48 might have laid out the former MVP quarterback.
For now, in terms of renown, “No. 48” might be an upgrade for Andre Jones Jr., Washington’s seventh-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette. After practice, when asked if he had faced Jones in intra-team drills, left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said, “Who?”
You know, No. 48.
“I don’t know,” Leno said. “If I did, I don’t remember.”
The moment was a perfect encapsulation: Jones has promise and a long way to go. In fact, he wasn’t even the first defensive end Washington drafted this year. The team selected Clemson’s K.J. Henry in the fifth round, 96 picks before it took Jones at No. 233. But Jones’s speed and length have regularly stood out among the reserves. He played well in the preseason opener, registering a quarterback hit and a tackle for loss, and he could push more well-known ends for a rotational spot, particularly in pass-rushing situations. He has earned a few first-team reps opposite Montez Sweat in the absence of Chase Young, in relief of Efe Obada and sometimes ahead of Henry, Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams.
“Wow, he’s a dynamic young man,” Coach Ron Rivera said after practice Wednesday. “He’s got some explosion off the edge. He’s got a lot to learn in terms of technique and the scheme itself, but his talent and his abilities did flash, did show. So he’s a guy that we got to pay a little extra attention to this week.”
Bullock’s Film Room
A compilation of smaller notes from the Commanders’ defense in the preseason opener against the Browns.
Another player that stood out on a few plays was second-year corner Christian Holmes. Holmes was a seventh-round pick in 2022 and spent most of his rookie season on the periphery of the roster, making contributions on special teams more than on defense. With a deep group of defensive backs this year, Holmes will likely have to be a special teams standout again to make the roster, which he is by all accounts. However, in this game against the Browns, Holmes showed there’s some upside to him at corner as well as special teams.
I thought I’d finish with a quick note on seventh-round rookie defensive end Andre Jones. Jones has received plenty of praise this week and caught the attention of media and fans during joint practice sessions with the Ravens because the Commanders had him running with the starting defense while Chase Young was sidelined. Now, it’s worth pointing out that Jones only worked with the starters on the second of the two practices against the Ravens and that the Ravens were without starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley, meaning Jones was facing their back up left tackle. So this move could be a reflection of his development throughout training camp, but it could also be that they wanted to see him work against some second team offensive lineman instead of third stringers like he saw in the second half of the Browns game.
In that Browns game, there were a few rushes where Jones looked a little hesitant and unsure of himself, but once he got into the rush his raw length and athleticism did stand out. He did have one stand out rush though where everything came together nicely.
Nick Gates - Commanders OL
The Washington Commanders’ offensive line took some heat for their performance against the Cleveland Browns in Preseason Week 1. While it wasn’t as bad as many made out upon further examination of the game film, it did nothing to dispel the notion of this unit’s potential to become a weak link again in 2023.
Judging by their performance throughout joint practices with the Baltimore Ravens, the protection took their criticism personally. They were a much more cohesive unit in team drills, with the performance of Nick Gates catching the eye throughout according to those in attendance.
Gates was ruthless in pass protection and looks to be developing good chemistry/communication with quarterback Sam Howell for good measure. Much is expected of the free-agent signing at the center position in 2023, but all signs point to the former Nebraska star being a major asset.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews body-slammed Washington Commanders cornerback Danny Johnson, resulting in a devastating injury for the latter.
On Thursday, it was determined Johnson injured a rotator cuff at the time of the fight per a league source. Had it happened during a game, it would’ve most certainly garnered a suspension and fine for Andrews from the league.
But since it occurred in practice, which some think is actually encouraged by the league, there is no punishment or even slap on the wrist for Andrews. Multiple fights have been reported between teams conducting joint practices.
It’s unclear if there are deeper, underlying issues between the two players that culminated in the body slam, but both teams are working hard this offseason, and those two players most likely have been matched up frequently during joint practices.
It took quite a while for both players to settle down and for both teams to separate. Fighting seems to be a common theme in training camps this season, as Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was involved in a skirmish with a teammate already this offseason. The Cleveland Browns and a few other teams have had skirmishes with other teams during joint practices as well.
Fuller spoke of how the practice is good to challenge the players.
“You just play what you see. And even that, that’s a little bit different from a game because, from a game, you got film that you can go out there and watch and stuff like that. But just from a technique standpoint, there’s no film, no knowledge of what they do. You just line up, play your technique and trust that your technique is gonna allow you to make plays.”
Regarding Commanders quarterback Sam Howell said last week in practice Howell showed he has made progress.
“I remember the other day he made an out route on me, which that pisses me off, but like, just to see him be able to put those throws in spots that DBs can’t get it. I think the good NFL quarterbacks, that’s what separates a lot of times college from the NFL.”
“You know, being here, seeing as beautiful a facility as the Ravens have, I’m sure they’re looking at this like, ‘Now we need to definitely change the atmosphere, the environment and practice facility out in Ashburn,’ or wherever the new practice facility may be,” said Washington’s former All-Pro linebacker London Fletcher, who now works as a game analyst for the team. “The thing I know about this new ownership group, these guys have owned sports teams before. So they know what the facilities need to look like, what a championship-winning organization needs to look like and be run from top to bottom on the football side, and also the business side.”
Changing facilities and securing deals to construct new stadiums (FedExField pales in comparison to M&T Bank Stadium as well) all will take time. However, the day-to-day approach that Washington’s officials, coaches and players take can help immediately nudge the long-suffering franchise closer to respectability.
It all starts at the top. For years, Snyder fostered an environment in which subordinates were belittled and harassed. The former owner meddled in football decision-making rather than allowing his general managers and coaches to do their jobs. He at times undermined coaches, which soured star players on their supervisors, further hampering Washington’s on-field efforts.
Year after year, Washington players and coaches endured repeated off-field distractions when they craved the chance to simply focus on the game.
Podcasts & videos
Show is up.— Kevin Sheehan (@kevinsheehanDC) August 18, 2023
0:00—thoughts on ESPN’s “Ceiling & Floor” prediction for the #Commanders.
14:50–@john_keim w/plenty on the Baltimore practices and insight on the team’s current view of Sam Howell.
47:28–@DaveJageler talking #Nats. https://t.co/3NJthWpRto
Episode 636 - Ron Rivera on Wednesday raved about Sam Howell, who did well at the Ravens. Didn't officially name him QB1, but that's coming. Sam is doing well. It's okay to say that. And so I do. #Commanders— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) August 17, 2023
Also: #Nats (MacKenzie Gore ) & #Orioles.https://t.co/ByMfCIsS3A
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Sam Howell Earned Starting Quarterback Job? | Josh Harris Effect | Cole Turner
The Washington Commanders finished up their time in Owings Mills, Maryland, with their second practice and against the Ravens. Check out the best photos from Wednesday morning.
NFC East links
Do Eagles have cause for concern at QB2? Marcus Mariota’s stay in Atlanta didn’t end well, and his time in Philadelphia isn’t off to a great start, either. Mariota was woefully inaccurate in his first-half showing, missing high often, holding on to the ball too long and simply coming up short when it came to leading the Eagles offense. Checkdowns and scrambles were his only saving graces as he completed 9 of 17 passes for 86 yards, a dreadful interception to Ronnie Hickman and a 42.8 QB rating. It’s never apples to apples in the preseason, considering who you’re playing alongside and against, but rookie Tanner McKee looked much sharper than Mariota, to boot. Franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts plays a rough-and-tumble style of ball and has missed games in each of his last two seasons. Having a viable backup option could be crucial for the Eagles. Mariota has the resume to fill that spot, but as of late hasn’t displayed the ability. His evening ended with him holding on to the ball for too long before taking a sack. It was a telling conclusion to an uninspiring preseason showing for the veteran QB.
Pro Football Network
Eagles vs. Browns Injuries: Nolan Smith, Zech McPhearson, Tyrie Cleveland Go Down Early in Preseason Game
Which Eagles Players Left With Ailments?
The Eagles who sustained injuries were cornerback Zech McPhearson, edge rusher Nolan Smith, wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, WR Tyrie Cleveland and defensive tackle Moro Ojomo — the latter two needing a stretcher to be lifted and driven off the field.
McPhearson, who has been with the Eagles since 2021 as a fourth-round selection from Texas Tech, was the first to go down with an ankle injury. He was seen struggling putting weight on his right leg.
Next to leave was Smith, the Eagles’ prized selection at No. 30 overall in the NFL Draft. The cat-quick edge rusher left with a shoulder ailment. Before his injury, he was putting together a stellar evening
Eagles DT Moro Ojomo carted off with neck injury but has feeling in his extremities. https://t.co/ykfPtoA4Dy— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 18, 2023
Eagles WR Tyrie Cleveland leaves on stretcher with neck injury, but the team reports he has feeling in his extremities. https://t.co/8OGx9oN5rc— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 18, 2023
After missing two game-winning field goals against the Eagles, Browns kicker Cade York ominously deleted a social media post celebrating an earlier kick.
The second-year kicker, who finished 3-of-4 on field goal attempts in the 18–18 tie with Philadelphia, has been under fire after missing kicks in both of the team’s previous preseason games.
Amid speculation that the team could look for a replacement, York’s Instagram account shared a team post celebrating his conversion of a first-half field goal. After the uninspiring finish to the contest, the post was deleted.
Blogging the Boys
A well deserved honor for Dallas’ star defender.
Vikings’ wide receiver Justin Jefferson was the only player that ranked ahead of Parsons.
Here’s what the article had to say about Dallas’ star pass-rusher.
Few could have anticipated Parsons displaying the dominance and versatility he has in his first two NFL seasons. He’s already a two-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowl selection and has talent evaluators and coaches believing he could rank among the all-time greats at his position once his career is over.
There aren’t many players in the history of the NFL that have been talked about as potential all-time greats just two years into their careers. Parsons is in rare company.
Big Blue View
After Jets canceled a Thursday joint practice with Tampa Bay, Giants let Bucs practice at Quest Diagnostics
The Giants did not hold a full practice on Thursday. They host the Carolina Panthers in their own preseason game at MetLife Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m.
“The Bucs needed a place to work since their joint practice apparently was canceled. They asked about our fields. Given our schedule, we said yes. It worked out,” the Giants said in a statement released by their public relations department.
NFL teams have increasingly held joint practices in recent years. This, though, seems like an unusual and gracious move by the Giants to turn over their practice fields to another NFL team.
Normally, the Buccaneers would have stayed in Tampa Bay for practice on Thursday and traveled to New Jersey for Saturday’s game on Friday. But they traveled to New Jersey for two days of joint practices with the Jets that were scheduled back in March 2023. Jets head coach Robert Saleh canceled the second day of joint practice a few days ago, which was too late for the Buccaneers to adjust travel plans. So the Giants came to the rescue.
NFL league links
Pro Football Network
The Dallas Cowboys have the best defense in the NFL. Since Dan Quinn stepped on campus at The Star, no defense has posted a better EPA per play (-0.088).
The Cowboys have benefitted greatly from their turnover production, but that doesn’t take away from their overall success. When excluding plays with turnovers, the Cowboys rank fifth in dropback EPA and second in dropback success rate.
In 2022, Dallas had the highest pressure rate in the NFL, according to Pro Football Reference. They ranked fourth the year prior.
If they had one weak point defensively last season, it was on the defensive interior and the second cornerback spot. A midseason trade for Jonathan Hankins solved one problem, and the offseason trade for Stephon Gilmore solved the other.
There is no guarantee that any of these units perform up to our expectations, but no team blends talent and schematic innovation like Quinn’s defense. And we didn’t even talk about Micah Parsons.
5) Philadelphia Eagles
Reed Blankenship and Terrell Edmunds may not be Marcus Epps and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, but there is so much to love about this Eagles team that we can suppress our desire for elite defenses to boast elite safety play.
The Eagles’ defensive line is a firing squad. Haason Reddick, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Davis, Josh Sweat, Milton Williams, Jalen Carter, and Nolan Smith should remain almost as productive as the nearly record-breaking 2022 unit.
The thing to keep an eye on is the secondary. Although Philadelphia ignores the LB position, for the most part, they’ll throw guys out there until they find two serviceable pieces. Will the CB cliff finally show for Darius Slay (32) and/or James Bradberry (30)?
7) Washington Commanders
The Washington Commanders finished incredibly strong a season ago. They ended up finishing fifth in defensive EPA, and they accomplished that without the help of Chase Young on the edge.
Young is now back, and while the Commanders don’t have the depth of the other top units, their first four might be the most talented in the league.
Reinforcements arrived on the back end in the form of Emmanuel Forbes and Jartavius Martin. While Martin may not make an immediate starting impact, he has the skill set to play in the slot, on the outside, or as a split-field safety.
Pro Football Talk
No, the NFL doesn’t care about fights during joint practices. And the NFL won’t care, until someone is seriously injured.
On Wednesday, a Commanders player suffered an injury during joint practices with the Ravens.
Per a league source, Washington cornerback Danny Johnson injured a rotator cuff when Baltimore tight end Mark Andrews slammed him to the ground.
It’s the kind of move that would have gotten Andrews in real trouble during a game. But because the NFL doesn’t care about what happens in joint practice, Andrews will experience no real consequence. Which will provide no real deterrent to any other player who might be inclined to throw someone to the ground or to throw a punch or to swing a helmet during joint practices.