The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the opinion of the team.
We're still months away from the Washington Football Team suiting up for Week 1, but the work towards getting ready to take on Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers starts now.
Washington began its OTAs Tuesday morning, giving head coach Ron Rivera and his staff a chance to look at the majority of their new roster on the field for the first time together. Contact was essentially non-existent and competition was kept to a minimum, but helmets were on, sleds were popping and coaches were helping their players improve their technique.
All in all, it was a good start.
"For the most part, I'm very pleased with what we got," Rivera said after practice. "We've got a lot of players, new faces. Our guys are looking at the opportunity to develop and come together."
Between the rookies, free agent class and veterans returning from injury, there were plenty of players all looking to make a good first impression to start the summer. So, here are some observations from the first day of OTAs.
-- Ryan Fitzpatrick has only been on the team for about two months, and his teammates are already starting to gravitate towards him, Rivera said. He was leading the huddle during team drills, trying to get in sync with the rest of the offense and talking with offensive coordinator Scott Turner and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese in between reps to offer suggestions. Fitzpatrick is looking forward to being on the same page with his teammates and wants to let them know that he trusts them. That helps raise their confidence, he said, and building a good rapport with them will make some aspects of the scheme feel like second nature.
-- There were a bunch of players returning from injury on the field Tuesday morning with the likes of Saahdiq Charles, Matt Ioannidis, Antonio Gandy-Golden and Kelvin Harmon all participating in drills. Charles was getting time at left tackle, while Gandy-Golden and Harmon made some impressive catches. On one particular play, Harmon made an extra effort on the sideline to keep his feet in bounds. It was unclear if he was able to manage it, but one of his teammates pumped his arms to signify a catch. Ioannidis, one of Washington's best interior pass rushers in 2019, was also back to his regular role after his 2020 season was cut short due to a biceps injury.
-- Speaking of players returning from injury, veteran strong safety Landon Collins was on the field working on his footwork and other fundamentals in individual drills. Collins suffered an Achilles' injury against the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, but he confirmed that he feels "awesome" about his health. It's been a long journey, he said after practice, but he has been working on his ability to run, cut and jump over the past several months. He added that he feels "like himself again," and believes he is on track to be ready for Week 1.
-- Defensive backs coach Chris Harris was on the field cheering on his players as usual during team drills, and he had good reason to do so early in practice. Fifth-round pick Darrick Forrest grabbed a tipped pass intended for Isaiah Wright during 9-on-9 drills, which caused a flurry of celebration from the defensive sideline. All of the team's defensive backs ran down on the field to congratulate the rookie, and Harris was seen sprinting towards the group yelling, "All Day!"
-- One of the biggest moments of the day came from third-round pick Dyami Brown, who was finally able to show off his ability as a deep threat. Brown won his matchup against Troy Apke, who was lined up at cornerback, as Taylor Heinicke launched a pass 40-plus yards downfield. Brown made a leap for the ball and came down with it while surrounded by Apke and another defensive player. The play received a noticeable reaction from the offensive players, who let out an "oooh," as Brown wrapped his hands around the pass.
-- Tuesday was also the first chance for media members to see Bobby McCain, who the team signed nearly two weeks ago. McCain prefers not to identify as one specific position in the secondary. Instead, he sees himself as a defensive back who is able to play all positions on the back end of the defense. That should be music to Harris' ears, seeing as how he preaches versatility to his players. All McCain wants to do is "compete and be the best player" he can be, and he made it clear he has every intention of helping Washington win. McCain has recorded at least one interception in the past five seasons and has 30 pass breakups in that span.
-- Rivera said during rookie minicamp that running back Jaret Patterson reminds him of Darren Sproles, and that comparison is starting to become more accurate. Patterson showed off his quickness on several occasions as he rotated through plays with the rest of his fellow running backs, and his footwork has been on display as well. He caught a checkdown pass during the final portion of team drills and tip-toed his way down the sideline for a sizable gain.
-- First impressions are important, as Rivera pointed out during rookie minicamp, and that is equally true for the players as well as the team and coaches. Two of Washington's newest additions, Fitzpatrick and William Jackson III, both addressed the media after practice and had the same thing to say about their new team: they really like the energy that surrounds Inova Sports Performance Center. Fitzpatrick used the words "youthful exuberance," while Jackson said everyone treats each other like family when they walk through the doors. Those are the kinds of things Rivera likes to hear; it shows that his efforts to change the culture are paying off.