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#PickSix: Rookie Impacts And Wide Receiver Roles

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Antonio Gandy-Golden makes a contest catch while Troy Apke defends him during minicamp. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the opinions of the team.

For those who are counting down the days, there are 25 days until training camp begins in Richmond. It will be a time for fans to get a better look at their favorite players and the most intense position battles on the roster. That's still over three weeks away, though, and in the meantime fans have plenty of questions. Here's what Washington's faithful want to know:

@rtubman88: Which rookie do you think makes the most impact this season?

It's a fascinating question, Rob, considering how much talent the team got this year. As easy as it would be for me to just say, "Well, obviously it'll be Jamin Davis," I'm sticking with Dyami Brown because of the offense's goal to be more explosive. Brown is about as close to a master at making downfield, contested catches as someone fresh out of college can be (just ask Virginia, which couldn't cover him at all in his last two seasons at North Carolina). My answer might be a little different if Washington had a quarterback who slowly chipped his way down the field, but now it has Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke competing for a starting role. Both of those players are not afraid to sling it and take chances. It's possible the combination of Brown and Fitzpatrick/Heinicke could be a beautiful marriage.

@Mikemessina58: DE depth is a concern. Rely on what they have or sign some journeyman on the cheap?

I have to disagree with your initial point here, Mike. To me, the depth at defensive end is fine as it is. William Bradley-King and Shaka Toney are highly qualified pass-rushers -- Toney has the eighth-most sacks in Penn State history, while Bradley-King has 19.0 with Baylor and Arkansas State. Then there's James Smith-Williams, who played some in the interior last year out of need, and Casey Toohill has gotten some praise from Sam Mills III. Now, is the group young? Absolutely, but the coaches want to work with their youth and let them develop. Sure, you'll add some experience by signing a veteran. I'm not a fan of adding experience just for the sake of it, though, and I believe that's exactly what would happen in the case of most defensive ends available right now.

Morgan S.: Saahdiq Charles was initially drafted to play LT, and I'm reading that he has "tackle" quickness. Why isn't he more in the mix for LT?

Let me put at least some of your concerns to bed, Morgan. Saahdiq Charles is absolutely being considered at left tackle. As Travelle Wharton pointed out in June, he does have the quickness to play on the outside and keep up with defensive ends. But Charles' versatility allows him to not be pigeon-holed to just one position. He also has the size and strength to play guard. That offers the coaches a lot of flexibility to move him around wherever they need him. It's also worth considering that the group has changed in the year since he suffered his injury. Charles Leno Jr., a longtime starter and 2018 Pro Bowler, is on the roster as well as second-round pick Sam Cosmi. Their presence doesn't mean he couldn't be the starting left tackle, but there are also other roles that Charles could compete for. It's all about finding the five best offensive linemen, so if Charles can prove himself, he has a good shot of being in that group.

Jay R.: So happy Matt Ioannidis is returning. Does he add another dimension to the defense or is that he just makes a strong unit even stronger?

I went back and forth on this one for a little bit, mostly because Matt Ioannidis is someone I consider as an underrated gem and wanted to mull over anything "new" he adds to the defensive line. I landed on him strengthening the group because I believe he'll shore up some issues the defense had last year. In 2019, the last time he played a full season, he led the team with 8.5 sacks, which is only three fewer than all of Washington's defensive tackles accounted for (11.5) last season. He also had 64 tackles, which was fifth on the team at the time, and he had a career-high run defense grade from Pro Football Focus. He was sorely missed last season, judging by the reactions from his coaches and teammates. And having another starting-caliber player in that group is never a bad thing.

William C.: What's the update with Antonio Gandy-Golden? We have signed so much wide receiver talent since drafting Antonio. Appears he still on the roster. I never hear about him. Is he competing? Progressing? Expected to make the team?

It's true that there hasn't been much discussion on Antonio Gandy-Golden lately, so let's change that right now! For starters, he had a really nice catch during minicamp, which served as a reminder that he can still make those improbable catches that entices Washington in last year's draft. Ron Rivera mentioned that he has seen continuous growth from Gandy-Golden and added that a player with his size -- 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds -- has a role on the team. He'll obviously have to prove it, though, as the receiver position is now full of talent. It'll ultimately come down to what he can do during training camp in a few weeks. If he can make more high-flying playing in practice and in preseason games, he has as good a shot as any to make the roster.

Oscar M.: I think we already project Terry McLaurin & Curtis Samuel as the primary outside receivers. With Adam Humphries, Dyami Brown, Gandy-Golden, & even Curtis Samuel's flexibility to move inside, who will primarily play in the slot? Or will it be a constant rotation?

I do think there will be some rotation in this group; that's just how Scott Turner's offense operates. However, if there was one person who could be considered the "primary" slot option, it would be Adam Humphries for a couple of reasons. For one, that's what he has played for his entire career, and he's been more successful than most at it with more than 2,900 yards and 13 touchdowns over six seasons. The second is that Fitzpatrick already has a strong relationship with him. Fitzpatrick is a smart player, but is still getting familiar with Turner's scheme. Having someone like Humphries who has worked with him before is a nice security blanket for some dump-off plays. And Humphries' most successful seasons came when Fitzpatrick was a part-time starter, so it makes sense to pair them together.

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