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5 Things To Watch As Washington Opens Training Camp To The Media

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The Washington Football team will be in full pads for the first time on Tuesday for the start of the contract integration period, which will run until Sept. 6. During this time, teams will be allowed a maximum of 14 padded practices.

Tuesday also marks the first time the media will be able to see head coach Ron Rivera's team in action. Here's what and who to watch as training camp ramps up:

1. How Practices Will Be Run

With a new coaching staff comes a revamped practice regimen. For Rivera, it's all about tempo.

"The biggest thing is I want you to see tempo," Rivera told the local media Aug. 10. " I want [reporters] to be able to say, 'Man, they practice fast. Man, they move from one drill to the other.' To me, that's one of the things that you have to do is play with up-tempo. The only way to do that is practice with an up-tempo. You've got to be able to understand how things have to be done."

Without preseason games, Rivera said tempo will be even more important this season. And with Week 1 less than a month away, there's no time to waste.

"We've got to practice at an up-tempo every opportunity we get, and that's what I hope [reporters] see," Rivera said. "If [they] don't, let me know because that's something we need to get corrected. That's the only way we can simulate anything right now as you start to lead into your first regular season game."

2. Dwayne Haskins Jr.

Rivera and his coaching staff have been pleased with what they've seen from Dwayne Haskins Jr. in training camp so far, but now they'll be able to see how he performs in pads against a full defense.

These practices will reveal a lot about the second-year signal-caller in terms of his grasp of the offense, command of the huddle and post-snap execution. Will he make the correct read based on the defense's alignment? Will he hold himself and his teammates accountable for mistakes? How will he react to a vaunted pass-rush or if his primary receiver is covered?

Preseason games typically answer many of these questions, but Washington will have to rely on game-like situations in practice to evaluate Haskins and its other quarterbacks. How they do so will be intriguing, but how Haskins responds will be even more important as he attempts to cement himself as the franchise quarterback.

"I'm most excited about the competition," Haskins said last week. "Just being able to go against somebody across the ball and having to go against Montez [Sweat] and go against Chase [Young] and the rest of our D-line and going against our great corners. Me and Landon [Collins] go back and forth all the time. Just looking forward to the competition part of football and just competing against someone else other than throwing on air. Hopefully getting some comradery and getting some team chemistry going on that we can go into Week 1 and we're all together as a team."

3. Players Coming Off Injury

First, running back Bryce Love passed his physical after missing all last season with a knee injury. Then linebacker Reuben Foster, who has not played since October of 2018, was activated off the Physically Unable To Perform List.

Quarterback Alex Smith joined them both on the field Sunday -- 21 months after suffering what many thought to be a career-ending injury. 

How they perform could significantly change the team's complexion in 2020. Love is a former Heisman Trophy runner-up, while Foster is a former first-round pick. Both will have opportunities to compete for the starting job at their respective positions. Smith could be a part of the quarterback competition, Rivera said, as long as he shows he can protect himself and make all of the necessary movements.

Just a few months ago, it was unknown when these players would suit up again. But now they're all back, and Washington is better off because of it.

4. Defensive Line

The defensive line is unquestionably the strength of Washington's roster with five former first-round picks as well as Matt Ioannidis.

Still, there's plenty to figure out. How will the rotation work inside and on the edge? Who will play during heavy-run situations and on passing downs? How will Chase Young fare against NFL competition, and how will his presence affect the other players up front?

These are good questions to have because Washington has options. Now, it's about figuring out the best way to utilize them.

"With [Montez Sweat]'s ability and Chase [Young]'s ability and that whole group of guys we have, we have the ability to have a special unit," Rivera said. "It's pretty exciting to watch these guys practice. I know it's just practice, but when you start throwing in Daron [Payne] and Jonathan [Allen] and Matt [Ioannidis] and Tim [Settle] and Ryan Kerrigan -- the wily veteran who's really put his arm around Chase, which has really been neat to watch -- and Ryan Anderson, we've got a solid core of guys that as we're building this unit, you look to the future and say that it can be very bright as a group of guys."

5. Position Battles

Rivera loves competition, and Washington's free agent class is a reflection of that: mostly inexpensive players who will compete against those already on the roster.

The left side of the offensive line remains up in the air, as does tight end and No. 2 wide receiver. Defensively, there are several versatile linebackers vying for three starting spots.

All of these positions battles will be figured out over the next three weeks, which will make for an exciting and intense conclusion to training camp. The coaching staff's mentality is simple: let the best players win.

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