CBS writer makes wild pick for Commanders training camp battle to watch
By Jerry Trotta
In less than two weeks, the Washington Commanders will report to team headquarters in Ashburn for training camp. Unlike several teams, rookies and veterans will report on the same date, with the first practice starting July 27. The camp will run for over three weeks until Aug. 18.
The Commanders will not return to Richmond, where they’ve visited every year dating back to 2013 (outside of the 2020 pandemic) and Ron Rivera referenced the $100,000 travel budget as a chief reason the club won’t make the trip.
Though Washington’s long-standing tradition won’t continue, there’s a myriad of reasons for fans to be excited for training camp.
Between Carson Wentz getting his first real test as the team’s starting quarterback, Terry McLaurin returning to the mix after his holdout, Jahan Dotson looking to piggyback off his dominant spring, and players slugging it out for starting jobs and roster spots, Commanders camp has the makings to be a doozy.
It’s honestly hard to pinpoint which roster battle will be the most compelling. If you asked CBS Sports writer Josh Edwards, though, he’d highlight Daron Payne (?) and Phidarian Mathis (?) going head-to-head as the obvious choice.
Phidarian Mathis isn’t going to supplant Daron Payne in the Commanders starting lineup.
Here’s what Edwards said of the supposed battle.
"The Commanders have already paid a hefty sum to interior defender Jonathan Allen. Edge rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young will be eligible for extensions in the next few years as well. It is difficult to envision Washington meeting Payne’s contract demands knowing that larger entanglements are on the horizon. For those reasons, the coaching staff may be inclined to give Mathis a longer look during the regular season."
Wait, what? Not only is Payne a starter, but he played the most snaps of Washington’s defensive lineman last season. And regardless of his contract status, the coaching staff isn’t going to play Payne fewer snaps. He gives the team the best chance to win. Period. Mathis wasn’t drafted to replace Payne in 2022.
Keep in mind Edwards didn’t run through every NFL team’s most captivating training camp battle. The CBS analyst hand-picked Payne vs Mathis as one of his seven training camp battles to watch involving rookies.
That makes his pick less egregious, but it’s still a head-scratcher, especially when Jahan Dotson will look to fend off Curtis Samuel for WR2 duties. Dotson, a rookie, was the team’s offensive star during spring practices whereas Samuel is entering a make-or-break year after he played less than 100 snaps in 2021.
What about Cole Turner going up against John Bates for the starting tight end role while Logan Thomas finalizes his ACL recovery? Brian Robinson Jr. potentially trying to unseat Antonio Gibson as the team’s lead running back?
Literally anything other than Payne vs Mathis would’ve sufficed. Mathis will assume a significant role due to the Commanders’ shortage of interior defenders, but it won’t be at the expense of the team’s most dominant run defender.
We thought that went without saying.