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Day 1 of Redskins training camp: News, analysis and takeaways

Washington’s 2017 training camp is underway. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Redskins’ 2017 training camp got started on Thursday. Read on for takeaways, plus news, analysis and tweets from throughout the day.

Mike Jones gives his top three takeaways from Day 1 at Redskins training camp

1. It’s too early to tell if the defense has improved: One of the most popular non-Kirk Cousins questions that fans ask involves improvements on defense. How much better will this unit be this year? Honest answer: Even after watching multiple offseason practices and today’s camp-opening practice, we really don’t know.

There’s a lot that is still up in the air. The back end should improve because of D.J. Swearinger’s skills and experience as a safety, and Su’a Cravens’ athleticism and instincts. But the front seven remains very much in flux. Jim Tomsula threw so many different first-team defensive line combinations out that there appears to be no favorite for your starting three. This is a legit competition, in which free-agent acquisitions (Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain) or draft picks (Jonathan Allen) have no edge over undrafted guys (Joey Mbu or Anthony Lanier). It’s gonna take some time to figure out this line, and the same goes at inside linebackers, where Will Compton, Mason Foster and Zach Brown rotated Thursday just like they did during the spring.

2. Josh Doctson got off to a strong start: The Redskins held him back during the spring practices, but Doctson went all out now that training camp is here, and he showed signs of why he was highly regarded coming out of college as the Redskins’ 2016 first-round pick. In addition to his size, Doctson displayed great footwork at the line (juking cornerback Bashaud Breeland), crisp route-running which enabled him to create separation, and good hands. He’s obviously got to stay healthy, but Doctson is encouraged by how good he feels, and believes he will have a big season.

3. Kendall Fuller had a big day: Second-year nickelback Kendall Fuller recorded two interceptions to kick off training camp with a bang. His first pick came while playing underneath coverage on wide receiver Brian Quick, and with Josh Norman playing over the top. Fuller got better position on the slightly underthrown Kirk Cousins pass and made a diving catch. Later, Fuller read third-string QB Nate Sudfeld perfectly. Sudfeld riffled the ball down the right sideline, but undrafted rookie wide receiver Zach Pascal ran the wrong route and after running down the sideline, cut inside toward the center of the field. Fuller let Pascal keep running because he saw the ball coming his way and made the easy catch.

Here is the rest of our news updates and analysis from Day 1 of Redskins’ training camp:

Gruden thinks Jordan Reed will be out for a week

Redskins Coach Jay Gruden plans to “take it slow” with tight end Jordan Reed after a big toe injury placed him on the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday. The initial expectation is that Reed will miss just a week of practice, but the Redskins will reevaluate the injury in about four-to-five days.

Gruden said the injury has affected Reed over the last few weeks during his workouts leading up to training camp, but he doesn’t believe it’s a significant injury.

Scenes from the first week of the Redskins’ 2017 training camp

RICHMOND VA - JULY 27: Washington tackle Ty Nsekhe (79), center, shoes a laugh with Washington wide receiver Josh Doctson (18) left, and Washington defensive back Dashaun Phillips (35) during a morning walk through at the Washington Redskins summer training camp in Richmond VA, July 27, 2017. (John McDonnell / The Washington Post)

“We’ll be extra cautious with Jordan,” Gruden said. “The way he looked in mandatory [mini]camp, the way that he looked at the end of the year, I think he’s the type of guy that has great knowledge of the system right now. I think it’s better safe than sorry with a guy like that, especially with the amount of tension that he puts on his feet and ankles the way he comes in-and-out of breaks to just make sure he can get at 110 percent before he comes back.”

Redskins add tight end, waive LB Houston Bates

With Reed’s absence, the Redskins signed tight end E.J. Bibbs Thursday afternoon. The Iowa State product spent his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns and was on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad last year. Washington waived linebacker Houston Bates, who was on the PUP list with a failed physical designation, as a corresponding move.

Gruden comments on how action will be split among quarterbacks and pass-catchers

The head coach said that starting quarterback Kirk Cousins will get the first-team reps during camp, with Colt McCoy seeing some action as well, and second-year passer Nate Sudfeld receiving a small amount of work.

As for the team’s rebuilt receiving corps, Jamison Crowder is expected to see a bigger role following the departures of wideouts DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency, but those lost targets could get spread around.

Cousins steps to the podium

Shortly before noon, quarterback Kirk Cousins spoke from the podium and took questions from reporters. Liz Clarke writes that Cousins said he is “in a good place” as training camp opens.

He commented that he has been studying older, high-level quarterbacks this offseason, also adding that he isn’t worried about having to balance playing with soon becoming a father.

Cousins said he’s not worried about his contract situation, following his and the team’s not reaching an agreement on a long-term contract extension. Cousins will make around $24 million on the franchise tag this season.

Cousins said he isn’t worried about tight end Jordan Reed starting training camp on the PUP list, and that he believes the offense — despite losing wide receivers Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency — still has enough firepower to excel. He also added that his offensive line makes things easier for him.

Rookie watch: Jonathan Allen

The team’s first-round draft pick out of Alabama is expected to compete for a starting job this season, but will begin camp working with the second and third teams.

Another young player in Washington’s defensive front, Preston Smith, struggled some on Thursday.

Training camp Q&A: Kendall Fuller

Mike Jones quizzes Fuller on his summer, which included getting scared by tigers in Thailand.

First walkthrough of the season

The Redskins’ walkthrough got underway shortly after 10:30 a.m., with safety DeAngelo Hall, who is beginning camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, participating. Tight end Jordan Reed, also on the PUP list, did not appear to be in attendance.

One fan question to kick off the day: Will any undrafted free agents make the roster this year?

Master Tesfatsion: It’s going to be very difficult for an undrafted free agent to crack the 53-man roster unless a significant injury opens the door for someone. Personally, I don’t see it happening. If it does, it would likely be an interior offensive lineman such as guard Tyler Catalina, listed at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, of Georgia, or Michigan guard Kyle Kalis, at 6-4 and 302 pounds. Even then, it’ll be a tough path, with plenty of backup interior linemen returning, including Arie Kouandjio and Isaiah Williams. The team also invested a sixth-round pick in Wyoming center Chase Roullier, listed at 6-4 and 317 pounds.

Outside of the offensive line, the Redskins are deeper than they were last year. Coach Jay Gruden said it’s the best depth he’s had entering his fourth season. There are going to be some tough decisions across the board with some of the acquisitions they made this offseason to complement the young talent already on the roster. This might be a scenario in which, although the goal is to snag a spot on the 53-man roster, making the 10-man practice squad would be a significant accomplishment for an undrafted rookie.

More Redskins coverage:

Brewer: The Redskins don’t deserve a quarterback as calm and balanced as Kirk Cousins

Virginia Governor on Redskins: ‘You’re going to see this team move to Virginia’

Here’s what to expect from the Redskins as training camp gets underway

Redskins 53-man roster projection ahead of training camp