Much like Washington tight end Logan Thomas has drawn comparisons to Greg Olsen, and Washington’s running backs have been compared to Christian McCaffrey, Rivera has been on the hunt for his next star middle linebacker — someone like Kuechly or maybe longtime Panther Thomas Davis.
In Jamin Davis, Washington’s first-round pick out of Kentucky, Rivera might have found his guy.
During the first week of training camp in Richmond, Rivera cited Davis as one of the young players who stood out with their ability to retain information and translate it to the field. Davis has played the “mike,” or middle linebacker role, with the starting defense for most of camp. As a rookie, he’s essentially been tasked with being the quarterback of the defense, making the calls and checks to get players lined up.
After the first padded practice Tuesday, Rivera again cited Davis as one of the players who thrived with his full gear.
“He put the pads on, and he just kept running into people,” Rivera said. “I mean, that’s his mentality, and that’s what you’re looking for in guys.”
And after Wednesday’s workout, Rivera made a beeline to Davis to coach him up. The two stood at the 30-yard-line as Rivera talked to him about Kuechly, who was in a similar position in 2012 as a first-round rookie.
“In talking to Jamin, I used some of those examples,” Rivera said. “ ‘Hey, it’s okay. You are a rookie, but it’s okay to be up there, to be that guy, to be that leader.’ That’s what he’s done, and I just wanted to reassure him.”
The trash-talking continued in the trenches Wednesday, and a familiar face was again in the thick of it: rookie offensive tackle Sam Cosmi. During team drills, veteran defensive tackle Jonathan Allen got in Cosmi’s face at the end of a play. In previous practices, Cosmi shared words with defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young.
“When it’s toward me, I like to engage,” Cosmi said. “But I’m one of those guys that likes to do my job and go play by play, and I’ll show you what I do on the next play and the play after and play after that. That’s how I roll.”
With Cornelius Lucas out for the first week of camp, Cosmi has received almost all of the reps at right tackle with the starting offense, pitting him against Young and Sweat. Young said “destroying” Cosmi will only make him better. If nothing else, it taught the rookie a valuable lesson early in camp.
“One time toward the end of practice, I got put on my butt, and I was like, ‘Okay, here we go,’ ” Cosmi said. “ … I just learned I got to bring it every single play.”
Rivera has said he doesn’t know how many wide receivers he plans to keep on the initial 53-man roster, but Steven Sims is making a compelling case. The third-year player has received ample time with the first- and second-team offenses, working both in the slot and out wide, and has regularly been in the mix as a punt returner.
Sims said last season “wasn’t a great year” and that he didn’t perform to the standard he set for himself. In 12 games, he had two dropped passes and two fumbles lost (three others were recovered). Sims also dealt with a toe injury in Week 2 that landed him on injured reserve for part of the season.
Now healthy, Sims said he focused on “going back to the basics” in the offseason. After practices, Sims has been one of the last ones on the field, catching passes from the Jugs machine.
Kyle Allen did not practice for the third consecutive day because of an ankle injury he suffered Saturday in Richmond. Allen has been day-to-day, but when asked whether the team planned to sign another quarterback for competition, Rivera said he doesn’t expect Allen to be out much longer. Steven Montez has received reps with the third-team offense in his place.
Defensive linemen Jonathan Allen (hamstring) and James Smith-Williams (lower leg; he had offseason surgery on his shin) returned to team drills Wednesday. Smith-Williams took reps with the starters, in place of Sweat, during the last two-minute period.
And defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis, who was activated off the covid-19 list Tuesday, worked with a trainer on another field for most of practice to ease his way back into workouts.