Believe it or not, we are now almost two weeks into training camp.
But due to the impact of COVID this season, there is a different feeling in Ashburn. With mostly conditioning work and very limited football drills, and with the restrictions around media access, there are naturally far fewer juicy training camp stories to digest.
Things will ramp over the next few weeks, particularly when padded practices begin. But for now, we have to scavenge for slim pickings, but there have been some interesting things to take note of.
This is Dwayne Haskins’ team
Ron Rivera has continued to stress the competition for the starting QB job, but listening to the coach speak to the media and the subsequent comments from QB coach Ken Zampese, it seems clear that they are delighted with the progress of the second year man. And barring a meltdown when practice ramps up, he’ll be the week one starter.
“He’s done a great job of studying, preparing and getting himself ready for this. He’s been great”, said Rivera last week.
Zampese also praised the work Haskins has put in, and welcomed the work he did with Cam Newton a few weeks ago, “I loved it when he worked with Cam, because Cam has had to speak this language for years. Hopefully there was some transfer of shortcuts or different things.”
Alex Smith’s inspirational recovery from his gruesome leg injury added another level of discussion, but it will be a surprise if the 15 year veteran is cleared and ready for action any time soon. And as much as Kyle Allen has a leg-up in terms of knowledge of the system, he’s light years behind Haskins in terms of ability.
Therefore, this season, and possibly the franchise, is tied to Haskins.
Ryan Anderson has been working with the defensive line
New Defensive Coordinator, Jack Del Rio, name-dropped Anderson a couple of times in a recent interview, saying “I like Ryan Anderson. I think Ryan Anderson is a guy that plays with the toughness and an edge that you covet defensively.” He went on to add “ His toughness, the juice he brings off the edge, I think he’s gonna really flourish in a 4-3 approach.”
Anderson was shown in a recent video working out with the defensive line, and while it’s probably reading way too much into very little at this early stage, if you follow the crumbs, it seems likely that Anderson may have a significant role to play in the rotation.
There had been alot of speculation surrounding Anderson’s role in the off-season, and indeed his name was even being floated as a potential trade candidate. As an edge-setting OLB in the previous 3-4 system, Anderson was a solid run defender, but didn’t have as much impact as a pass rusher, although he did record 4 sacks. His relative lack of size (6-2 and 255lbs) may count against him as a pure DE, but Del Rio has clearly seen something he likes, so we may see him in that role, rather than as a SAM linebacker.
Chase Young could be the best thing to happen to Montez Sweat
I did say that we have had limited feedback from camp so far, and this observation is based on a single piece of video footage. The short shuttle sprints video was widely shared on social media and showed Chase Young and Montez Sweat comfortably ahead of the other defensive linemen in their group. What was interesting was that the two athletic freaks appeared to be racing each other, pushing each other to squeeze out that bit of extra effort.
Limited sample size, and a bit of a reach I know, but if the two DE’s can challenge and push each other to greater heights, the impact on the field could be explosive. Sweat will undoubtedly benefit from a lot of the attention being shifted to Young, and he could be in a great position to break out in 2020.
Antonio Gibson will have a dual role
Washington listed Antonio Gibson as a running back when he was drafted out of Memphis in April. However, in his final season in college, Gibson caught 38 passes as a WR and had only 33 carries from RB.
According to RB’s coach, Randy Jordan, the dual threat play-maker has been “splitting his time” between RB and WR drills and meetings, and given the lack of proven play-makers on the outside, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Gibson feature in both roles.
The release of Derrius Guice (which is worth an article of its own!), adds another layer of intrigue to the backfield options.
Scott Turner would be wise not to overload Gibson at this stage, perhaps putting together a package of plays that allow him to be used in multiple roles, and build on it as the year progresses.
Rivera’s culture is developing
As soon as he was appointed, Ron Rivera made it clear that culture was vital in the development of the program. He quickly dispensed with Quinton Dunbar, and Trent Williams was soon on his way.
Whenever he spoke, culture was emphasized time and again. This weekend’s release of Derrius Guice highlighted that anyone who did not fit into his vision for what a Washington football player should be, will be gone. Would the previous regime have been as quick to cut ties with Guice? Maybe, but I doubt it.
Kendall Fuller used the word ‘culture’, multiple times in a recent media session, so the coach is clearly backing up his words with actions as the team finally gets to work face to face.
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