With the team forming a semicircle around him, Hopkins nailed the kick and sent his teammates to six weeks of vacation before training camp begins July 27 in Richmond.
“That was kind of cool,” Rivera said. “The players really appreciated Dustin coming through for us like that.”
The main takeaways from Washington’s three-week offseason program were the impending return of real position battles, a more explosive-looking offense, the potential of a new contract for Jonathan Allen, Terry McLaurin’s fighting words and more.
This year, position battles are for real
Last season, because of injuries or coaches’ decisions, Washington didn’t have one legitimate position battle all training camp. This year promises to be different, with competitions shaping up at backup quarterback (Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen), left guard (Wes Schweitzer, Ereck Flowers, Saahdiq Charles), free safety (Deshazor Everett, Bobby McCain, Jeremy Reaves), right tackle (Cornelius Lucas, Sam Cosmi) and wide receiver (several players vying for just a few available spots).
Other positions to watch: Slot corner (Darryl Roberts could push starter Jimmy Moreland), backup tight end (John Bates seems to have the edge on Temarrick Hemingway and others) and punt returner (DeAndre Carter, Isaiah Wright, Steven Sims, Dax Milne, Danny Johnson).
If strong safety Landon Collins (Achilles’) is 100 percent by the start of camp, as he expects to be, it will put coaches in a difficult position. The team must either reinstall Collins over Kam Curl, who excelled in Collins’s absence last season, or stick with Curl and find other ways to utilize Collins, who has already rejected the idea of playing anywhere but safety.
Charles Leno Jr.
The offense could look a lot different this year
Washington’s offense was limited last year, in part because of a lack of talent at wide receiver beyond McLaurin and chronic instability at quarterback. But during minicamp, it was obvious that Washington’s front office was successful in acquiring speed and playmaking ability at the skill positions, plus a quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who can throw deep more consistently.
The pressure is now on second-year coordinator Scott Turner to turn those weapons into an explosive offense. Turner often mentions the importance of chunk plays, which Sportradar defines as rushes of 12 or more yards and passes of 16 or more. Washington totaled 94 last year, tied for third fewest in the league, and the figure needs to rise if the team is to score more than 20.9 points per game, which was eighth lowest.
In minicamp, Washington ran a ton of wide receiver screens. Last year, Turner called a receiver screen on 11 percent of pass plays, the fourth-highest rate in the league, but received middling returns (5.92 yards per play, tied for 17th). If Turner establishes reliable deep passing this season, it’s possible screens will become more effective.
Jonathan Allen considers it ‘important’ to get a deal done before camp
Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen could receive a new contract before the start of camp. Right guard Brandon Scherff, on his second franchise tag, remains unlikely to sign a new deal before the July 15 deadline.
On Wednesday, Allen said his agent and the team recently began contract negotiations. Allen, 26, is due about $10 million this season on his fifth-year option and said it’s “definitely important” to him the deal gets done before camp begins. The top tier of NFL interior defensive linemen earns about $21 million per year, and the second tier earns about $17 million.
“This is my home. This is where my family’s from. I went to high school in this area. I want to be here,” Allen said. “I’ve always had the dream and goal of playing for one team my entire career, and I really want to do that. [But] I understand this is a business, and I’m not going to a make a decision one way or another. Both sides are talking.”
Washington has found its swagger
Good-natured trash talk between players, which escalated all minicamp, peaked Thursday. Defensive linemen jawed with offensive linemen and quarterbacks, wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden celebrated his one-handed grab along the left sideline, and Chase Young sprinted through a group of offensive players spraying his water bottle in the air following the defense’s fourth interception.
But the most pointed jab came from McLaurin, the usually reserved wide receiver. Near the end of practice, in a battle of rookie third-round picks, speedy wide receiver Dyami Brown beat cornerback Benjamin St-Juste down the left sideline for a 50-plus-yard touchdown. McLaurin screamed at Brown to keep using a certain release technique against St-Juste.
“Put a hand on him, he’s toast!” McLaurin yelled. “Find the weakness and wear it out!”
Checking up on players
Five players didn’t participate in the full minicamp: wide receiver Curtis Samuel (groin), defensive tackle Tim Settle (ailment), running back JD McKissic (family matter), linebacker Jon Bostic (personal) and Moreland (personal). Rivera said he expected all five to be ready for camp.
Last week, running back Antonio Gibson said the turf toe that slowed him at the end of last season had lingered into this offseason. Running backs coach Randy Jordan later said Gibson was okay, and the second-year player looked agile and explosive in noncontact 11-on-11 drills.