Commanders OTAs notes: Highlights from first on-field session of the spring

Observations from the Commanders' first full OTAs practice originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

ASHBURN — Though it was rainy for much of the Commanders’ first OTAs practice of the year on Tuesday, it was still entertaining to watch quarterback Carson Wentz spray the ball around, the defense sprinkle in some highlights and the rookies get their feet wet next to the veterans.

And that’s enough weather puns. 

Here’s what stood out from Washington’s morning session, which marked the “debut” of Carson Wentz in his new uniform and featured a handful of useful takeaways…

  • Chase Young, Terry McLaurin, Montez Sweat and Cam Sims were all missing on Tuesday. For the explanations behind those absences, head here. Ron Rivera didn’t seem nearly as peeved as he was 12 months ago when Young and Sweat conspicuously skipped the voluntary workouts, for what it’s worth, because they (and the pair of receivers) appeared to have legit excuses. Still, after so much talk of urgency among the organization, it was an interesting beginning to OTAs.
  • Carson Wentz, compared to the likes of Taylor Heinicke, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Alex Smith, is simply a different breed at quarterback. When asked for his first impression of Wentz, Antonio Gibson pointed to the passer’s size, tried to come up with something else and then just repeated that he’s huge. Also obvious: The uptick in arm strength that Wentz will bring to the Washington offense: 

  • As for how Wentz performed, well, it’s difficult to grade him in a non-padded, misty, late-May practice other than making the types of general assessments that were made above. He did connect on one pretty intermediate toss to Jahan Dotson in 11-on-11s as Dotson was running perpendicular to the right sideline, and Rivera told reporters he’s pleased with how Wentz is building rapport with teammates. For those who predicted that Corn Elder would be the first to intercept a Wentz ball, meanwhile — all zero of you — you may now claim your winnings.
  • Perhaps the best sight of the morning was how active and, essentially, how normal Curtis Samuel was. During some of the brief comebacks that he tried to author in 2021 as he fought a lingering groin injury, Samuel just never seemed to trust himself. On Tuesday, however, he was darting around with ease and explained that he’s finally confident once again in his body. That confidence definitely showed.
  • Antonio Gandy-Golden’s tight end transition is officially underway. The 2020 fourth-round choice was with his new position group on Tuesday in an effort to stick on Washington’s roster as a different kind of pass catcher. Both Logan Thomas and Sammis Reyes weren’t healthy enough to participate in this round of OTAs, and if they continue to be sidelined, AGG will get the additional reps he needs to learn the intricacies of tight end. Blocking will be especially key in his journey, per Rivera.
  • Gandy-Golden wasn’t the only former fourth-rounder being moved around, though. From the media’s perspective, it sure looked like Troy Apke was back at safety after lining up at corner for most of 2021. Between him, Percy Butler and Darrick Forrest, the Commanders are full — and probably too full — of special-teams focused safeties. 
  • Seventh-round corner Christian Holmes had an opportunity to swipe a Heinicke pass near the conclusion of the proceedings and unfortunately just whiffed on it. Heinicke’s intended target slipped on the damp grass, leaving Holmes as the only man in the area along with the ball. For someone who was picked so late in the draft, he can’t afford to waste too many of those gifts.
  • Finally, the Commanders’ burgundy helmets keep popping. A chunk of the fan base is either lukewarm or straight-up bitter about the uniform redesign, but when the helmets start getting in front of more people’s eyes, that’ll change. 

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