Rivera seems intent on using the OTAs he didn’t have last year to test his players’ positional flexibility. The team shifted several of them into positions they’re not expected to primarily play this season, including Saahdiq Charles at left tackle, Troy Apke at cornerback and Jamin Davis at middle linebacker.
Washington drafted Davis in part because of his coverage ability in space, and while it seems likelier he’ll fill one of the outside linebacker roles during the season, the team got him familiar with the middle of the defense early. Cole Holcomb was most often at weakside linebacker, with Jon Bostic on the strong side.
It’s likely Charles will kick inside to left guard once presumptive left tackle Charles Leno returns to practice (competing for the starting job with Wes Schweitzer and Ereck Flowers), but for the moment, the team got to evaluate the 2020 fourth-round pick who missed almost all of last year with a knee injury.
For Apke, a shift to cornerback comes after he was benched twice last season following miscues at free safety. The team seems to hope it can find a way to capitalize on Apke’s elite athleticism.
Rivera ‘very comfortable’ with releases of Morgan Moses and Geron Christian
In his first comments since Washington released right tackle Morgan Moses and left tackle Geron Christian last Thursday, Rivera said the team picked Leno and Sam Cosmi over the team’s two holdovers from the previous era.
“We are just going in a different direction,” he said. “We have an opportunity to get some young guys on the field, and we went out and brought in a veteran left tackle. Feel very comfortable with those decisions because of the players that we have on the roster right now.”
Four players did not attend practice: Leno, wide receiver Steven Sims Jr., and defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Leno stayed home with his wife after the birth of his second daughter last week and is expected to practice next week.
It’s unclear why Sims, Young and Sweat did not attend. Rivera appeared irked about Young and Sweat, but he said they talked to defensive line coach Sam Mills III beforehand.
“We have 86 guys here, and it would be nice to have everyone,” Rivera said. “But guys are entitled to what they feel they need to do right now. They are both good, young football players, and they will be here when they are here.”
Notable new numbers
After Moses was released, Cosmi changed his number from 62 to 76, which Moses wore for seven seasons with Washington.
Second-year wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden switched from No. 10 to No. 11, which became available following the departure of Alex Smith.
Injured players return
Eight players returned to the practice field for the first time since suffering season-ending injuries last fall, including defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis (biceps), wide receiver Kelvin Harmon (ACL) and quarterback Kyle Allen (ankle). None of the three looked hampered by the injuries, though Allen wore tape on his right ankle.
Safety Deshazor Everett (pectoral), tight end Temarrick Hemingway (wrist), cornerback Greg Stroman (foot), Gandy-Golden (hamstring) and Charles (knee) also looked healthy. Rivera was excited to see Harmon and Gandy-Golden, two wideouts he expects to be active in one of the team’s most anticipated training camp battles.
The only player who was still too injured to participate was safety Landon Collins (Achilles), who stood behind the defense with defensive backs coach Chris Harris.
Ricky Seals-Jones bolsters tight end depth
After practice, Washington signed tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. The 26-year-old signed with Arizona as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2017, and he developed into a role player who caught 34 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown in his second year. He saw fewer targets in Cleveland the next year, and none in Kansas City last season.
After starter Logan Thomas, the team’s tight end depth chart now has Seals-Jones, Hemingway, fourth-round pick John Bates, new-to-football project Sammis Reyes and three 26-year-olds with limited experience (Tyrone Swoopes, Dylan Cantrell, Deon Yelder).