The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.
Fans were lined up on the hill overlooking the practice field at the Washington Football Team's facility in Richmond, Virginia. Veterans like Terry McLaurin and Ryan Fitzpatrick were having spectacular moments, while the rookies like Jamin Davis were getting more acclimated to the NFL.
It's official: training camp is here.
With the conditioning test completed, Washington held its first "phase 1" practice of camp in helmets and jerseys. There were some smaller inconsistencies that naturally come from the first day, but overall head coach Ron Rivera was pleased with what he saw from the 2021 iteration of the roster.
Here are a few observations from the first practice.
-- Fans have been curious as to where Davis will play among the rest of the linebackers. Things could change later, but for the first day, that answer was at MIKE, the same spot where he received most of his reps during minicamp. Rivera said Davis was one of the players who quickly stood out because of his quickness, ability to make plays on the ball and the way he was making calls. It was a good day of work, Davis said after practice. His next step: recover with an ice bath and get ready for the rest of the week.
-- The first practice of camp was the continuation of a reunion between Fitzpatrick and Adam Humphries, who played together with the Buccaneers. Their chemistry was obvious throughout practice, as the veteran looked for the slot receiver on several plays. And not only did Humphries find ways to get open, but he also worked to get yards after the catch through holes in the defense's coverage.
-- There were multiple combinations in the secondary at strong and free safety during team drills. The defense opened with Kam Curl at free safety and Landon Collins at strong safety, although players like Bobby McCain and Jeremy Reaves received reps as well. The benefit, Rivera said after practice, is that preseason games are returning, which allows the coaches to get a better idea of which combination works best and how the players perform against competition from another team.
-- Both Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke are known for not shying away from shots downfield, and it didn't take long for them to show that off. First, Fitzpatrick laid out a deep shot to McLaurin, who had beat his man before hauling in the pass on the left side of the field for a sizable gain. Later on, it was Heinicke's turn to air it out, as he hit Sammis Reyes. The defense can't be too physical without pads, but seeing the offense execute more vertical plays got some cheers from the fans.
-- Speaking of McLaurin and the other receivers, the group had a strong day and made several tough catches in team drills. One of the best of the day came from McLaurin, when he held on to a pass from Fitzpatrick and kept both feet in bounds. Another came at the start of practice with Cam Sims making a jumping grab with William Jackson III draped over him. Even Kelvin Harmon, who is coming back from a knee injury, got in on the action with a sliding catch on a pass from Kyle Allen. It was already a foregone conclusion that the receiver position would be competitive. Based on the first day, it will be a battle until the final practice.
-- It should come as a shock to no one that Montez Sweat and Chase Young are already showing why they're one of the best young edge duos in the NFL. Both players were pressuring quarterbacks all day, and while they couldn't record sacks, they found ways to alter the passing game. Sweat batted down a pass during the first team drill, which earned some props from Young in the backfield after the play was over.
-- Washington's defensive backs were getting plenty of interceptions during training camp, and that continued during the first day of camp. Fitzpatrick hit Antonio Gibson on a dump off pass, but the ball bounced off Gibson's shoulder and into the hands of Jimmy Moreland, who weaved around the offense and towards the end zone. Rivera praised Moreland's performance during the season last year, which included getting his first-career interception. It looks like the "People's Corner" is learning how to be in the right place at the right time.
-- McLaurin said after practice that Fitzpatrick "empowers" receivers. He puts them in the right spots to make plays and is comfortable working with the pieces around him. One thing about Fitzpatrick that is already apparent to McLaurin: if he tells you something, it's for a good reason.