The Washington Commanders have entered the dog days of training camp. The days run together, as the preseason schedule begins. As the games approach, I will be giving you a primer on some rookies to keep your eye on throughout the preseason and into the regular season.
The Commanders’ draft philosophy drastically changed in the 2022 NFL Draft. A year removed from taking high-ceiling, low-floor players in 2021, they aimed for more pro-ready players this year. Every single draft pick was a senior and many. were team captains.
To make a baseball analogy, the Commanders went from swinging for the fences to trying to slap doubles off the wall. Therefore, the Commanders may not have gotten the best “value” in certain cases. However, they got many players who can be consistent contributors right away.
The philosophy by the front office this offseason, has made it pretty difficult to narrow it down to just three. The entire draft class, in some ways, is making an instant impact. Even the undrafted tight ends Armani Rodgers and Curtis Hodges seem like players that can be impactful down the road.
So, if your personal favorite player is left out, that doesn’t mean they have been poor by any means. It was just harder to narrow it down this year more so than others. Here are the three rookies that have stood out the most.
3 rookies standing out in camp for the Commanders
3. S Percy Butler
Drafted in the fourth round out of Louisiana, Percy Butler was uniquely hailed early on by Ron Rivera as a potential “Day 1” contributor. He was an ace special teamer in college, something Rivera loves about Butler, but Washington’s head coach seems to want even more out of the safety in his first year.
Butler will make his hay early on as a special teamer but early on he is reportedly looking to be capable on defense as well. Running with mostly the second team, Butler has flashed his ability to be a physical presence in the defensive backfield.
In the Commanders’ physical Aug. 9 practice, Percy Butler screamed off the edge as a blitzer, rushing Taylor Heinicke into a throw that went straight to Jeremy Reaves for the interception. The play broke up a stretch of interception-less practices for the defense.
Butler has been physical against the run, in one practice he filled his gap and stopped running back JD McKissic for no gain. Butler has reportedly been flying like a missile to the football. As the preseason games begin, it will be interesting to watch if Butler’s physical mentality can lead to him being a more consistent tackler than he was at Lousiana.
Butler offers upside as a coverage safety, boasting a 4.36 40-yard dash, and showed some zone coverage instincts as a Rajin’ Cajun. The rookie has made his fair share of plays in pass coverage, including nabbing an interception on a pass from Heinicke.
The first-year safety will make an immediate impact as a special teamer, however, his fearless nature combined with his athletic profile could make him be more than that. Early on, he will be best as the team’s big nickel in three safety packages, allowing him to play closer to the line.
As he becomes more comfortable diagnosing passing concepts at an NFL speed, he can even rotate back to play in some two-high looks. Jack Del Rio’s deployment of Butler and second-year safety Darrick Forrest will be interesting to watch unfold.