Commanding Respect: Washington Defense Impresses During Training Camp

Commanding Respect: Washington Defense Impresses During Training Camp

Normally when going through the early stages of practice, a coach should want his defense ahead of his offense. Offensive systems can take time to fully reach a final form, while defensive alignments are usually more straight-forward. 

Is that a positive for the Washington Commanders in this first week of training camp? Commanders coach Ron Rivera certainly isn’t viewing it as a negative. 

“Today was a day where (the defense) was a little bit ahead (of the offense).” Rivera said post-practice Thursday. “When you’re not game-planning, you’re not anticipating, not expecting specific types of coverages for certain situations. (Therefore), you may not have the (desired) success. That’s the tough part.”

Washington is still getting acclimated with quarterback Carson Wentz commanding the huddle. Thursday was certainly a practice he hopes will be left in the past. Then again, defenders like nickel corner Kendall Fuller and linebacker Jamin Davis are just fine with the results.

Fuller, one of the team’s top defenders, broke up two passes against slick slot receiver Curtis Samuel during seven-on-seven drills. Against second-year receiver Dyami Brown, Fuller close the gap, leading to an incompletion and a loss of downs. 

Davis, the team’s 2021 first-round pick, nearly intercepted Wentz during team drills on a pass intended for a running back on a screen. The play before, Wentz threw an interception right into the hands of linebacker Cole Holcomb

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“I thought the back seven had a real nice day,” Rivera said. “A lot of had to do with the communications. We are working on some (new) things 

“I was really pleased with what we got on the defensive side.”

Washington’s defense was expected to be the reason for growth in 2021. After making the postseason at 7-9 in 2020, the Commanders focused heavily on addressing the defensive concerns in free agency and the draft. They signed veterans William Jackson III and Bobby McCain to the secondary. In the draft, they targeted Davis on Day 1, and versatile defensive back Benjamin St-Juste in the third round. 

Minus a late-season surge, the Commanders’ defense ultimately was the team’s downfall. Early on, the secondary struggled with consistency in coverage. Second-year defensive end Chase Young never found his footing after a breakout rookie season and ultimately missed the second half of the year with a torn ACL. 

Rivera tries to find the positives in everything. On one hand, his defense is taking the necessary steps to build off last season. On the other, his offense needs to find balance if it hopes to contend for a postseason berth in 2022. 

Thus the life of an NFL roster during training camp. Every day is different. No wonder why the term “win the day” is often used among position coaches and coordinators. 

“We had a good day,” McCain said. “We have to stack another on top and keep going on top and another and another and another.”

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