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The Washington Football Team is finally in training camp mode. With week one down and initial COVID-19 testing in the rearview, the team is moving into an extended strength and conditioning acclimation period until August 11th. As camp slowly ramps up, there are a few storylines to watch when padded practices begin:
Has Dwayne Haskins Really Improved?
Last season was a bit of a rollercoaster for Haskins. Former Washington coach Jay Gruden never seemed sold on him and he experienced the same sentiment when coach Bill Callahan took on the interim role.
When the team was backed into a corner due to injuries, Haskins finally got his chance. Since he only played half the season, there were flashes of potential but he didn’t have enough time to put it all together.
He finished 2019 with a 58.6 completion percentage, 1,365 yards, 7 touchdowns and interceptions and a 76.1% quarterback rating. He’s also been putting in work in the offseason as seen on his social media. Haskins dropped 11 pounds and 7% body fat. As he heads into his second year, everyone is eager to see how he has progressed. Especially since he is coming into training camp knowing that he is the team’s leader.
“You saw what happened when Dwayne puts his mind to it, he is down the weight, he is in great condition, all of those things that are in your control he has handled very well in the offseason,” said quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese. “Now we are in the next step, what are we going to do on the field in this offense and this communication, how we are going to compete and those kinds of things.”
Will Terry McLaurin Excel In Year Two?
Washington’s third round draft pick turned out to be a diamond in the rough last season. In his first game as a NFL wide receiver, he hauled in five catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. From that point on, he solidified himself as a big play receiving option.
He also happened to be one of Haskins’ favorite targets. With a bleak offense and several quarterback changes, McLaurin still managed to post nearly 1,000 receiving yards in 14 contests in 2019. Now with more stability, the sky is the limit for McLaurin. So how does he see himself improving this year?
“Just continuing to attack the ball. I kind of expected press coverage to be tough in the NFL, but those are really what win games I feel like, when you have a receiver that can win those one-on-one battles, so continue to try to dominate catching the ball, contested catches,” said McLaurin.
How Does Bryce Love Change The Running Back Situation?
When it comes to competition, the running back position may be one of the fiercest. With Coach Rivera revealing that 2019 fourth round draft pick and running back Bryce Love passed his physical, that means Washington has a long list of backs on their roster.
The team’s current running backs include Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson, Antonio Gibson, Bryce Love, J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber. They will all be competing for a spot on the roster but with a shortened preseason and modified training camp, this could be a tough call. But for running backs coach Randy Jordan, he is looking forward to the versatility that exists at the position.
“I think the biggest thing is the guys that we have, have shown that they have flexibility across the board to be able to give your offense some flexibility where you say, ‘OK I don’t want to go three wide receivers,’ Jordan said. “Well, you’ve got a guy like Derrius who can catch the ball and put him in situations to do the same thing. This is the most flexibility that I have had since I’ve been here and I am excited about it.”
How Will The Defense Pan Out?
Defense is Coach Rivera and Jack Del Rio’s specialty so that will be a major focal point in training camp. More than anything, the coaches will get their first glimpse at first round draft pick Chase Young. There’s also additional talent in the defensive backfield but the question is, how will the big picture come together?
“I feel very comfortable and confident in those first rounders that we have. Without that, we also talk about the guys that we have that were not first rounders. Matt Ioannidis, Tim Settle. Those are guys we want to put out there because they have that type of skillset. I like our safety situation lead by Landon Collins,” Coach Rivera said.
“Another thing is how is our corner situation going to play out? We have a lot of guys that have had a lot of success. How are they going to mesh? How is the line going to impact our coverage,? Rivera continued. “As far as the defense is concerned, I like our attitude and philosophy going into it. All those guys, there are a lot of young guys especially on the defensive line. None of them are younger than Chase [Young].”