Here's five things we learned about the Washington Redskins during the second half of the 2017 training camp at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
1. Robert Davis is showing the ability to "play big" despite just being a rookie.
Terrelle Pryor Sr. was perhaps the most talked about wide receiver when the Redskins were in Richmond, but the quiet progress of Davis – a sixth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft – impressed head coach Jay Gruden.
Davis had been working with the second- and even third-team offensive units for most of training camp, but got some run with the first-team offense with hamstring injuries to both Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder.
"We've thrown a lot at him since OTAs for a rookie. He's done a nice job," Gruden said. "He's really starting to play one position at X but we're starting to flip flop him around a little bit. He's done a good job. I like the fact that he'll go in there. He's a willing blocker in the running game. He's strong."
During Washington's preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens, Davis hauled in a 31-yard reception from quarterback Nate Sudfeld on the final play of the third quarter.
It was his only catch on six targets. Gruden, of course, wants to see him haul in more balls thrown his way and admitted that he needs to "polish up and tweak some of his stems" on his routes – as is the case for any rookie wide receiver – but that he's "just going to steadily progress and get better and better."
2. With Trent Murphy placed on Injured Reserve, the outside linebackers have an opportunity to see increased roles.
It was a crushing blow to Washington's pass rush when Murphy went down with a torn ACL and torn MCL in his left knee during the preseason opener.
Even though Murphy was going to be sidelined for the first four regular season games of the year due to suspension, the 2014 second-round pick was coming off a career-high 9.5 sacks and looked primed to pick up where he left off last year once he was set to return to the field.
With Murphy now on Injured Reserve, the Redskins will have to continue with the likes of Ryan Anderson, Junior Galette and Lynden Trail will need to step up alongside returning starters Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan.
For Trail, a player that spent portions of last season on the practice squads of both the Los Angeles Rams and the Redskins, it is tough to see a teammate go down with injury. But he knows that his opportunity is knocking and he must answer.
"[Trent] came off the sideline and looked at me and was like, 'It's time for you to step up,'" Trail said Saturday. "As of right now, I sent him a text yesterday and just let him know and I'm praying for a speedy recovery, understand that God has it at the end of the day. I've been working in with the ones, and it's a faster pace, but it's more communication and I feel a lot more comfortable knowing I can turn around and hey, we got this, we got that, and I'm hearing some reverb back from it."
Galette, meanwhile, was impressive on the practice field during his time in Richmond. Despite two surgically repaired Achilles, Galette showed quickness of the line.
The same quickness that allowed him to ring up 22 combined sacks in his last two seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
"I'm [going to] give him a little credit, too, from this standpoint – how many guys can have two Achilles on different ankles and work as hard as he has to get back to this point? I think he did that," said Doug Williams, Redskins senior vice president of player personnel. "I mean, he can't control a little tweak of the hamstring. I do believe if we can get him on the field, we'll see some of the Junior Galette that we are looking for. I'm [going to] give him the benefit of the doubt and say I think we can get something out of him."
3. Kirk Cousins' confidence is a benefit to Washington's offense.
When asked about Cousins during his press conference on Sunday, Williams said "nobody is more confident" in their abilities right now than Washington's starting quarterback.
"I think even from the fact that he decided to play on the tag, he's confident in himself," Williams said. "He knows what he's done the last two years. And the way I look at that, I don't think he's going to do no worse this year than what he did the last two years because the offense is what he's played in for the last two years, I think he's got a good rapport with the head coach [and] the quarterbacks coach.
"And Kirk is not a guy that is hard to get along with. The players like him. I think at the end of the day, that's what it's all about, it's about leadership. Everybody knows that Kirk can play this game. He's proved that he can play it, and I think the key here is taking us to the next level and he understands that the next level is important, not only to the team but also to himself, too."
Cousins, of course, took every single first-team rep with the offense during training camp. He appeared more poised under center and even had some fun whenever he'd lead a touchdown drive, either passionately spiking the ball in or running down the field to join in a group celebration.
While Cousins has let his personality out, he doesn't want the narrative to be that he's too relaxed. He still feels the pressure, but his recent success has given him the belief that he can accomplish any goal.
"I definitely feel like I've got to go out there and prove myself and the season is a grind," Cousins said. "I guess compared to previous years, I guess having experience has built confidence and has helped me to have a little more – whatever the word is – a little more confidence. But I've still got a long ways to go."
4. Phil Taylor Sr.'s comeback is one of the best stories in the NFL right now.
When Washington released the first unofficial depth chart of the year last week, Taylor was listed as the No. 1 nose tackle.
If this was three or four years ago, it would have been a given that Taylor would be in the spot on an NFL roster. He was one of the most productive rookies in the NFL during the 2011 season, even being named to the Pro Football Writes Association's All-Rookie Team.
But injuries took away Taylor's talents. He didn't appear in any game over the last two seasons and thought his career was over.
Then the Redskins called in January. Seven months later, he was back on the field appearing on 12 defensive plays against the Ravens.
"It was more surreal. Just doubting yourself in the beginning, talking about retirement, 'I don't know if I can come back,' just pushing through," Taylor said. "My wife, my kid, just helping me out with things. It was emotional to just finally be out there, see the crowd, come out of that tunnel again, it was awesome."
Gruden – a former offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals -- had some familiarity with Taylor when he was healthy, noting the defensive lineman was "tough to deal with" when on the Cleveland Browns' roster.
"He looks very similar, he really does," Gruden said of Taylor's current playing shape. " Now, like I said, he's got to play some more plays and he's got to put in day after day after day. We've got Green Bay, a very good team, and obviously Cincinnati [in] Week 3 will be a great test with the running game that they have with obviously Joe [Mixon], Gio [Giovani Bernard] and [Jeremy] Hill, so we'll see how he does."
5. Rob Kelley continues to show progress as he remains the starting running back.
It was this time last year when the little-known Tulane product started his undrafted-to-starter route as a rookie.
The Washington Redskins conducted their fourteenth day of training camp practice Monday, August 14, 2017 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
He'd get his reps during training camp, but they were few and far between as the No. 5 running back on the unofficial depth chart.
Of course, Kelley would rise through the ranks before being the starting running back for Washington over the final nine games of the regular season.
Once again the starting running back as the Redskins seek a third consecutive winning season, Gruden thinks Kelley is looking like a more complete player.
"Watching him out here, I think he's got great vision and he's got [a] very low center of gravity, he's hard to bring down with the first guy. I haven't really seen the first guy bring him down very often, which is good. I like where he's at," Gruden said. "He's another one of those second-year guys that has really improved."
When asked about his abilities as a pass-catcher, Gruden joked that he'll never be a "feature wide receiver," but can be a threat out of the backfield if his number is called.
"When we do our drop-back passing game and he gets out and they all panic drop back there, he catches flat routes," Gruden said. "He's got hands that are functional. He's got good hands."