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Daily Slop - 3 Aug 23: With padded practices, the focus is on the trenches

A collection of articles, podcasts & tweets from around the web to keep you in touch with the Commanders, the NFC East and the NFL in general

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Sam Cosmi loving move to guard, feels more comfortable at the position

“I really have grasped the position,” Cosmi said. “I really feel comfortable at the position right now. I could be [interchangeable] between guard and tackle if they need me to.”

At tackle, Cosmi was used to having more space going against defensive ends. Things happen more quickly at guard, though. “It’s like constant boom,” Cosmi said, and it’s “a brawl” trying to handle his assignments. So, he spent the offseason working on his hand speed and physicality. He also made adjustments to his stance, which had to be narrower to accommodate for the position change.

Cosmi has played tackle for most of his playing career, and he excelled at the position. At the University of Texas, he was one of the most athletic ones of the past three decades. He received a relative athletic score of 9.99 out of 10.00, which ranked second among 1,143 players at the position since 1987.

And yet he still loves the fit at guard because it fits his style better.

Chris Paul ‘grateful’ to compete for starting LG spot

Paul, a seventh-round pick from 2022, had primarily worked with the second group of offensive linemen up to that point in camp. That was the way coach Ron Rivera wanted it for the first week to give Saahdiq Charles the first crack at being the starter, but the head coach didn’t want to rule Paul out. The upcoming play was one of Paul’s first opportunities to prove that he could handle the role himself.

The play began, and Paul chipped the defensive lineman to his right before moving through traffic up to the strong side linebacker to cut him off. The play was stalled for a minimal gain, but Paul had executed his assignment to perfection.

The Washington Commanders are searching for a new left guard this offseason, and they have two possible answers in Charles and Paul. It’s the only position that is truly up for grabs on an offensive line that underwent significant changes after a disappointing 2022 campaign, and Paul is determined to show that he deserves to be in the thick of the conversation.

“I feel like I’ve been doing well,” Paul said after practice. “I’ve been growing, I’ve been maturing, and more importantly, I’ve been competing.”

Washington Post

As the Commanders finally dare to dream, here comes Sam Howell

“Everybody knows this is a quarterback-driven league and everybody’s looking for their guy,” said McLaurin, whose next answer that isn’t thoughtful will be his first. “And if you look at the [teams] who’ve won the Super Bowl and been consistently in the playoffs, they have that guy that they’ve been relying on for some time now. Obviously, we’re still looking for that guy.”

Dream for a second here. What if it’s Howell? No one — not Coach Ron Rivera, not new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, not any of the fans who have packed the stands in Ashburn during camp — can say with any degree of certainty that he will be. But if he is, so much falls into place.

The economics of Howell being a success are beyond enticing. According to the sports business website Spotrac, 64 quarterbacks are signed to contracts worth more than Howell’s four-year, $4.02 million rookie deal. Fully 85 quarterbacks make more in average annual value than Howell does. If he thrives in 2023, there’d be plenty of money available in 2024 and ’25 to strengthen an already decent roster before the quarterback had to be paid.

The Athletic

Commanders training camp: D-line dominates day one in pads, offense up and down

The new sound on Day 6 wasn’t Washington Commanders fans descending on training camp, though many attended, still riding a high from the recent franchise sale. They were treated to “thwacks” reverberating throughout the park.

“I love it,” right guard Sam Cosmi said. “I mean, it’s physical. That’s why we play the line. It’s the physicality to inflict pain on others when they don’t want you to.”

Wide receiver Terry McLaurin went into kid-at-Christmas mode the day before the equipment staff gave players pads.

“When pads come on, it raises the level of camp,” McLaurin said Monday.

The matchup isn’t a fair fight, for now, and the results were expected. The talent on the defensive front — which has four recent first-round selections, including Pro Bowl tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne — at times overwhelmed a revamped offensive line that is still establishing chemistry.

“I love what we’re seeing on the defensive line,” Rivera said. “(They) have just picked up where they left off. That’s a huge plus for us. Then look at the offensive line. It’s a work in progress.”

But the introduction of pads also leads to surprises.

“Quite frankly, a lot of guys can kind of look good in shorts and shirts, but now the physicality comes out a little bit more,” McLaurin said. “You got pads a few days, so the mental grind of camp starts to weigh on you a little bit more. That’s when guys start fighting through (the pain).”

Commanders Wire

Petition challenging ‘Commanders’ name is picking up steam

Crowds have been much, much larger and more excited at the Commanders training camp than in previous years. Fans are in a celebratory frame of mind that the Josh Harris group has replaced Daniel Snyder.

Also picking up momentum is the Native American Guardian Association (NAGA). The association constructed a petition asking that the Commanders NFL franchise change the name back to “Redskins.”

This petition will not be impacting the football that is played on the field this season by the Commanders. Yet, the association announced Sunday evening on Twitter that they have received 30,000 signatures.

Bullock’s Film Room

Commanders Training Camp Review: McLaurin Outstanding Catch

Breaking down an outstanding catch by Terry McLaurin from the Commanders training camp

Yesterday was the first day of padded practice for the Washington Commanders at training camp this year. Pads coming on always ramps up the intensity and brings out the best competition as it helps simulate real game situations as best as possible. This is where the younger players have their best chances to prove their worth and where the star players showcase their talents.

One of those star players showing their talents yesterday was wide receiver Terry McLaurin. Undoubtedly the play of the day from the Commanders training camp was McLaurin’s catch down the sideline. This clip comes from Mason Kinnahan on Twitter, who was at practice yesterday and tweeted a bunch of good clips, so be sure to check those out.

It was an outstanding catch by McLaurin and a great throw by quarterback Sam Howell, but there’s a lot more going on here than just the throw and catch. So, let’s draw it up and break it all down.

This was the scene before the snap. The offense is in 11 personnel, consisting of one running back, one tight end and three receivers. All three receivers align to the right of the formation while the tight end is isolated on the back side. With the quarterback in the shotgun, this formation would be known as “Gun Trey Left Open”. Gun tells the offense that the quarterback is in the gun. Trey Left tells the offense that the tight end is isolated to the left of the formation while the three receivers all align to the right. Open is a tag for the tight end to line up detached from the formation, as a receiver rather than a traditional inline tight end.

Riggo’s Rag

Josh Harris calling on experience to put ambitious Commanders plans into action

The new Commanders owner is willing to invest to make his dreams for the franchise come true.

When speaking about how his time with the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers can help with his own transition into the Commanders, Harris stated via Sports Illustrated that investment is the key to creating a winning culture both on and off the field. Again, this represents a refreshing change of pace from the previous owner, who cut every corner imaginable.

“I think obviously what I’ve learned from the Sixers, the Devils and other things is that you win championships with the best people in the front office, the best coaching staff. You win by investing. You win by creating a fan experience where people want to come out and support the team. This is really hard. And you win by creating an amazing culture, which we talked about is about respect, inclusivity and diversity.”

- Josh Harris via Sports Illustrated

Everything that comes out of Harris’ mouth is a breath of fresh air. There is a real purpose to get this franchise out of the doldrums and into relevancy, which is a lot to ask considering the mess the group inherited from Snyder.

The new bleachers at training camp were just the start. A potential name change remains at the forefront of some fans’ minds, but there are more pressing priorities such as putting a stadium plan in place and improving the overall experience at FedEx Field, where the Commanders are likely to reside for the next decade.

Sports Illustrated

Commanders’ Phidarian Mathis Shares ‘Humbling Experience’ After Knee Injury

Washington Commanders defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis is making up for lost time after his knee injury in Week 1 of last year ended his rookie season in a sour way.

Taken in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Washington Commanders, defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis was ready to take his chance.

However, the football gods can be cruel at times, and in his first-ever start against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mathis suffered a knee injury that would put a very early end to his season.

Spending all of your rookie season on the injury list isn’t how Mathis wanted to start his NFL career, and as training camp moves through to its second week, he has reflected on his injury and now has a newfound appreciation for the role he’s been given.

“It was long, it was kind of heartbreaking, just for the first game to go out like that,” Mathis said. “But at the same time, it was a big humbling experience, just sitting out, getting to watch those guys go out every Sunday and play. It was like a humble experience for me. It made me look at the game differently. You just never know when it’s your last play, so you got to take everything serious. Never take this game for granted.”

Commanders Wire

Terry McLaurin will never use QB turnover as an excuse

In four NFL seasons, McLaurin has gone over 1,000 yards three times and narrowly missed the 1,000-yard mark during his rookie season when Washington had the NFL’s worst offense.

McLaurin has done all of this with 10 different starting quarterbacks. Think about that. In addition to the quarterback uncertainty, McLaurin hasn’t had a legitimate threat opposite of him until Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson were on the field last season.

After practice this week, McLaurin spoke to the media and was asked about adjusting to another new quarterback.

“Shoot, probably about year two or year three; you know what I mean?” McLaurin said. “I kind of was like, it was a little bit of a turnover at the quarterback position, but at that point, I already had in my mind like, I don’t use that as an excuse as to why I don’t do my job, and I don’t use that as a crutch to be why I’m not making plays or, you know, there’s multiple quarterbacks. So I don’t want to use that as a hindrance as to what dictates my outcome and my performance. Obviously, we know that’s something that factors my position, but I’ve never used it as a crutch.”

What a perfect answer.

Podcasts & Videos

From the first day of training camp - Jeremy Reaves “can’t wait” to see Commanders defense this fall

Locked on Commanders - Washington Commanders Training Camp: Defensive Backs Second Look | Sam Howell Watch Day 7


PHOTOS | Training Camp, Day 7

The Washington Commanders were back in pads for the second consecutive day on Wednesday. Check out the top photos from Wednesday morning.

Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders


NFC East links


Cowboys RB Ronald Jones suspended two games for PEDs

Dallas Cowboys running back Ronald Jones has been suspended for the first two games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Jones, who signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys in March, can continue to practice during training camp and play in preseason games. His suspension takes effect on Sept. 3, and he is eligible to return to the Cowboys on Sept. 18, a day after their Week 2 meeting against the New York Jets.

The Cowboys are thin on experience behind starting running back Tony Pollard, who is coming back from high-ankle surgery in January. Rico Dowdle, Malik Davis and Deuce Vaughn, a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft, are competing for the spots behind Pollard with Jones.

Big Blue View

Giants training camp: 1-on-1 with Jamison Crowder

Crowder has likely had a better career than you realize

Why did you start camp on NFI?

Crowder spent the first few days of camp on the Non-Football Injury list.

“Obviously, I broke my ankle last year in Buffalo. Still trying to get the mobility and the range of motion back in that ankle. Just had a little bit of calf tightness in the offseason. Wasn’t major. I think I could have [practiced] last week, but the Giants training staff just wanted to use precaution. They’re gradually working me in with some reps, so that’s all it was.”

You have 415 career catches. Yet, you are fighting for a spot. Are you till trying to earn respect?

“100 percent. To that point, there’s a few guys in the room. We’ve got a really talented group of receivers. I enjoy being around a lot of those guys. Obviously learned a lot from Cole Beasley, obviously being in the NFC East playing against Sterling Shepard. Those guys are guys I’ve had a lot of respect for even going back to my days in Washington.

“You’ve still gotta earn your respect. I never want to feel like I’ve arrived or made it to a level where I’m too good. I’m constantly trying to learn, still constantly trying to go out there and do what I can obviously to make this roster. Just compete. Whatever reps I get I’m trying to go out there and make plays.”


Dallas Cowboys didn’t pay Trevon Diggs $100M to call Dak Prescott a ‘bitch-ass,’ but he did it anyway

The team can’t let the corner’s testy remarks to his QB derail this championship starved squad

During a training camp session, Prescott decided to take off on a scramble. The problem with that, defensive players aren’t allowed to touch quarterbacks in practice so once he tucks the ball that rep is dead. Maybe it was a heads-up to the offensive line that Prescott will take off sometimes, but largely no work is accomplished if Prescott brings practice to a halt once he becomes a ball carrier.

Diggs called this out while he was on the field working against the Cowboys’ No. 1 offense. He was quite unhappy with Prescott’s decision to kill an entire rep by taking off with the football. Diggs yelled at the Cowboys starting quarterback to stay in the pocket/box, and is heard on the video saying something about Prescott’s “bitch ass” to express his disappointment.

NFL league links



Measuring Running Back Efficiency Through Explosiveness

While taking a shot on a free agent back can work for a team, investing efficiently in the draft can lead to blossoming returns, especially for running backs. More importantly, investing in backs with high explosiveness is critical for NFL teams. One of the more relied-upon measures of explosiveness has been RYOE (Rush Yards Over Expected), a statistic that generates expected rushing yards based on factors such as age, down and distance, offensive line PFF grade, defensive YPC, etc. RYOE can show how much explosion a running back has to provide by seeing how many extra yards they add to their expected number per carry. The graph below represents running back RYOE (using Tej Seth’s public RYOE calculation) in the 2022 season as an independent variable and EPA from the 2022 year as the dependent explanatory variable. The figure shows that RYOE has a strong positive correlation to EPA per rush, deeming it a helpful statistic in measuring RB skill and explosiveness.

Some prominent names that led the league in RYOE in 2022 were Travis Etienne, Aaron Jones, Nick Chubb, and Tony Pollard. While RYOE measures on-field explosiveness, I wanted to dive deeper into other ways teams can find such explosiveness when evaluating running backs. Using RAS athletic testing data, I created an explosiveness grade, which assigns a number out of 10 to a back based on an equal weightage of their 10-yard split RAS score and vertical jump RAS score. I looked at 2022’s statistically best RBs to see if teams could apply this explosiveness grade.

Pro Football Talk

Turnover on downs is now subject to automatic replay review

NFL rules now provide for automatic replay review in the event of a turnover on downs.

The automatic review happens only if the offense fails to convert on fourth down. If the conversion is successful, any attempt to make it unsuccessful must be initiated by a coach’s challenge (unless the situation otherwise falls under the automatic-review umbrella).

Sports Illustrated

NFL to Consider Adopting XFL Kickoff Rules, per Report

The XFL’s version of the kickoff gives more of an incentive for returns and safer ones at that since there’s less room between opposing players to pick up a head of steam. NFL players running down the field following a kickoff reach an average speed of 17 miles per hour, according to PFT.

However, one unnamed source with special teams coaching experience told Florio that it would be an “ugly play” with the kick returner getting “crushed.”

“They have no idea how much different NFL players are,” the source said. “There will literally be nowhere to run.”