3 concerning developments at Commanders training camp

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Curtis Samuel
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Curtis Samuel /
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The Washington Commanders are in the thick of training camp. The pads have come on and the smack of pads are echoing across the humid practice field. Washington’s defense had been dominant in the padless practices.

The Commanders’ offense has had some pushback, and their quality of play is expected to increase with the pads on. Notably, fifth-round rookie Cole Turner has shown extraordinary promise as a threat in the passing game, while Jahan Dotson continues to be a steady positive presence in training camp.

Everything hasn’t been perfect for the Commanders, though. While the offense has improved recently, the overall product still has been scattershot. As the defense is ahead early in camp, here are three concerning developments so far in Ashburn.

3 concerning developments in Commanders training camp

(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

3. The 2020 Draft Class

On the second day of training camp, 2020 fourth-round pick Antonio Gandy-Golden announced he was retiring from the NFL and heading back to school. In his two total years in the NFL, Gandy-Golden caught one pass for three yards and had one rush for 22 yards. He spent the entirety of 2021 on the practice squad and was in the middle of a position change to tight end. Juxtaposition that to others taken after him and that miss becomes pretty frustrating.

Fifth-round pick Keith Ismael and fourth-round pick Saahdiq Charles are in the midst of roster battles, as it is no guarantee either make the final fifty-three. Fifth-round pick Khaleke Hudson has a clear pathway to being key depth at the linebacker position but he has been lackluster at best in his first two seasons.

The seventh-round elevates the draft a bit with Kam Curl emerging as a solid starter at safety, playing all over the field with over 400 career snaps from the slot, free safety, and in the box. James Smith-Williams is solid depth behind Chase Young and Montez Sweat, yet he hasn’t proven enough to be trusted in a full-time starting role.

While the first two selections have exciting potential, neither has reached it yet. Chase Young’s 1.5 sacks in 2021 may be a misleading stat, as he had 19 total pressures when he was hurt against the Bucs in Week 10. Still, he hasn’t fully developed as a pass-rusher and his injury status may stunt that growth back another year. And if he does develop into the player he can be, he was the second overall pick. How much credit should you really get for that one?

Antonio Gibson is a solid running back, especially one that is entering his third-year full-time in the role, but he still struggles in certain areas that prevent him from being trusted as a three-down back. His vision is still lacking, he had six fumbles in 2021 and he’s still developing as a pass-protector. He has slimmed down and seems more explosive in training camp, so he should be more efficient in 2022.

However, the chances Gibson gets re-upped for a second contract have decreased. The addition of Brian Robinson gives Washington another option all the while Gibson hasn’t emerged as an elite back, and the value of his position across the league could make him replaceable.

So here’s the deal: Washington’s 2020 draft is, to put it kindly, a mixed bag. Chase Young and Kam Curl will end up, at minimum, being very solid starters for the Commanders. Both could end up being better than that, too. However, with Gibson still being fairly mediocre the rest of the draft is uninspiring.

There are solid depth pieces in spots but the misses are bad. Gandy-Golden is out of the league before his third season, Ismael has struggled to keep a roster spot and Charles never emerged as a capable answer at tackle.

For as much praise as Kyle Smith got before heading to Atlanta, some of it deserved, it is notable to point out that his last hurrah as the acting head of personnel for the Commanders wasn’t a slam dunk.