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Home Sports Commanders’ offense puts on a strong showing at joint practice with Ravens

Commanders’ offense puts on a strong showing at joint practice with Ravens


OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Washington Commanders’ first joint practice with the Baltimore Ravens got physical quickly Tuesday. Less than an hour in at the Ravens’ team facility, Baltimore linebacker Odafe Oweh grabbed Commanders center Nick Gates by the back of the neck and punched him in the face mask. Gates threw a few jabs back before they were pulled apart.

“You just got to set the tone,” Gates said. “Get it going early. … I like doing it. It just makes it enjoyable for me.”

Gates said he instigates opponents strategically and knows not to let his emotions get the best of him because penalties hurt the team.

“There’s a line that you can’t cross,” he said, “and I like to get right up to it.”

Here are five takeaways from the first of two joint practices.

Howell crisp on offense’s strong day

Quarterback Sam Howell followed a strong preseason debut with a sharp practice full of quick, decisive throws. He might not have thrown a pass more than 15 yards in the air, but as the completions piled up, the tough Ravens pass rush seemed to grow frustrated. Once, when Baltimore blitzed big on third down, Howell flicked a pass to Terry McLaurin over the middle and trusted his dynamic wide receiver to get the first down.

Under pressure, Howell’s mobility and quick release showed

On the line, left guard Saahdiq Charles impressed with a few standout wins in one-on-one drills, and during the team portion he split first-team reps with Chris Paul.

After practice, Coach Ron Rivera said he wanted Howell to get rid of the ball even more quickly on some plays, and multiple offensive players spoke excitedly about the unit’s performance.

“We put together a great day,” wide receiver Curtis Samuel said, beaming.

Practice got chippy in the final team period. After Baltimore wide receiver Tylan Wallace caught a short pass with rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes in coverage, Forbes tried to punch the ball out of Wallace’s grasp and instead sparked his temper. Wallace swung at Forbes and Forbes swung back, inciting a sidelines-clearing skirmish.

Forbes brushed it off after practice, saying they were “just competing.”

On the subsequent play, Ravens tight end Mark Andrews body-slammed cornerback Danny Johnson after catching a pass along the right sideline. Ravens tackle Morgan Moses, previously a staple of Washington’s offensive line, joined the fray, and the sidelines cleared again, prompting Ravens Coach John Harbaugh and Rivera to gather their players at midfield.

Rivera’s message: “It can’t be about yourself. It’s not personal. You get beat, you get beat. Let’s just move on to the next thing, and let’s focus in on what’s happening, what’s important.”

The Commanders’ O-line has a ‘razor-thin’ margin for error

The one other notable dust-up with the Commanders on offense happened when Ravens safety Ar’Darius Washington effectively tackled tight end Cole Turner. McLaurin and fellow wideout Dax Milne sprinted over to confront Washington and soon got lost in a large group of shoving players and coaches, including Rivera.

Defensive end Chase Young dressed in pads but did not do any team work because of a stinger he suffered in the Commanders’ preseason win over the Browns on Friday. Tuesday’s practice was the third in which he did not participate in team drills, and it’s plausible he will miss a fourth Wednesday.

“We’ll see,” Rivera said. “But for the most part right now, we’re just being smart with it. We got to continue to go through it. He will come out, and he will do all of the individual [drills], and then we’ll see what the doctors say.”

When Young missed 22 games over the past two seasons while recovering from a knee injury, James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill rotated to fill the void. On Tuesday, Efe Obada took reps with the first-team defense.

“Efe’s been solid,” Rivera said. “He’s a guy that gives us a little versatility as well. He’s not just an outside guy, but he’s also a three-technique on passing situations and does a good job with his rushes.”

RPOs will be key in the Commanders’ offense

Tight end Logan Thomas (calf) and cornerbacks Benjamin St-Juste (ankle) and Nick Whiteside attended practice and took part in stretches but did not participate in anything else. Defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis (calf) did not work out at all; he watched the early portion of practice from the field house tunnel while wearing a walking boot on his left foot.

Forbes continues to shine

His tussle with Wallace aside, Forbes had another sound day in the defensive backfield, getting his hand on multiple passes to disrupt the Ravens’ offense. On one play, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. ran a wheel route along the right sideline. Forbes had inside leverage and kept his back to the quarterbacks, so when Beckham turned to catch the ball, Forbes quickly swatted it away.

“He has really good makeup speed,” McLaurin said. “He’s good at the catch point. So it’s really [important] for us receivers to be good at the catch point as well, where our hands are a little higher on a deep ball, because he’s good at getting his hands in there and kind of throwing you off your route.”

Forbes was drafted to start immediately. The Commanders are counting on him to help eliminate some of the chunk plays that cost their defense in previous seasons and to rack up more interceptions and pass deflections. So far in camp, he has played as advertised.

“I really like what I’ve seen from him from a growth standpoint, and you can tell he’s definitely getting more confident within the system,” McLaurin continued. “You can tell he’s learning from Kendall [Fuller] and being more patient and understanding route concepts, and we’re going to need that. … You can definitely see he’s getting his hand on more on balls from interceptions and [pass breakups], which, on defense, I know they’re emphasizing that.”

Commanders managing partner Josh Harris and limited partner Mitchell Rales attended practice with former Washington coach Joe Gibbs and Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment CEO Tad Brown.

It’s clear the new owners want to see the finer points of the football operation. Harris and Rales stood on the sideline to watch one-on-ones — the Commanders’ offensive line against the Ravens’ defensive line. A few periods later, Rales stood in the backfield with offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

POST AUTHOR: Sam Fortier and Nicki Jhabvala

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