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Commanders’ injured list grows; Jahan Dotson shows comfort with playbook

Notes from training camp

Rookie receiver Jahan Dotson catches a pass on Aug. 2, the first day of padded practice at Commanders training camp. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Washington Commanders held their first padded practice Tuesday, but the team’s injured and recovering lists are extensive.

On Tuesday, a sizable contingent of players worked with trainers on the side field of the Commanders’ Ashburn facility. Among them were defensive end Chase Young (ACL), tight ends Logan Thomas (knee) and John Bates (calf), wide receiver Curtis Samuel (hamstring), safety Troy Apke, defensive back DeJuan Neal and center Tyler Larsen (Achilles’).

But the injured list is even longer. Guard Trai Turner did not practice because of a hurt quad that has sidelined him for the past few days, and defensive end James Smith-Williams did not attend practice because of a hip injury. Near the start of practice, the cart came out for linebacker Drew White, an undrafted rookie who appeared to go down after spinning off running back Antonio Gibson. White threw off his helmet in frustration after Coach Ron Rivera came over to talk to him. Though White’s status is unclear, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Commanders were to bring in some linebackers for tryouts for depth.

Washington has been diligent in slowly working back players who had significant injuries last year. Starting center Chase Roullier, who had extensive surgery on his ankle after injuring it in Week 8, was activated off the physically unable to perform list last week and has so far been limited to individual drills, one snap of team drills and plenty of time with a trainer or on a stationary bike.

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Samuel, who missed most of last season with hamstring and groin injuries, did not participate in team drills Tuesday and has participated in only a few since the start of camp. He spent most of practice working with trainers before joining teammates on the main field to observe the final 11-on-11 period.

“We wanted to make sure that we brought him back the right way,” Rivera said Monday of Samuel. “So they’ve put a plan together. They’ve sat down, they went over it with Curtis yesterday, and they’re implementing it now. … The ultimate goal is really the regular season, more than anything else.”

A Snyder sighting

Commanders co-owner Tanya Snyder attended practice Tuesday, in part to join a birthday celebration for 98-year-old superfan Melba Jacobson. After practice, players serenaded Jacobson in a small huddle on the field.

Snyder had been out of the country with husband and co-owner Daniel Snyder, who was not in attendance Tuesday. Daniel Snyder testified in a voluntary deposition over Zoom with the House Oversight Committee on Thursday.

Dotson’s progress

Though it’s still early in camp, rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson has seemed to quickly acclimate to the speed of the pro game and the expanded playbook.

He regularly gets reps with the first-team offense and is still in the mix for returner, though Rivera warned that any chance of seeing Dotson on special teams during the season will depend on preseason play and how extensive his role is with the offense.

Dotson has taken advantage of the number of veterans in the receivers room. He said he often goes to Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, Samuel and others for tips about learning the playbook. His comfort with the playbook has grown markedly since the spring, and he is “getting the little details” and able to show off his versatility.

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“Coach is being able to move me around now, so I can play multiple spots,” he said. “Yeah, just being more comfortable with the playbook, and then it enables me to play even faster.”

He added: “We have a lot of meetings in the NFL. It’s kind of opposite from college, where … we have longer practices, shorter meetings, but here, we have shorter practices, way longer meetings. So [I’m] just getting adjusted to being in the meeting room all day and really … studying the playbook.”

Camp quick hits

• The Commanders traded for Carson Wentz in large part to get a bigger quarterback with a stronger arm and to find some stability at the position. Taylor Heinicke, however, is trying his hardest to prove skeptics of his arm strength wrong. He showed it off Tuesday when he threw a deep ball to wide receiver Kyric McGowan, who was in tight coverage. McGowan leaped for the ball and came down with it with two hands as the crowd roared.

• The sound of shoulder pads colliding wasn’t the only evidence of a more intense practice Tuesday. The team ran one-on-one drills between receivers and defensive backs, offensive and defensive linemen and running backs and linebackers.

• Gibson, who is easing his way back into practice after sitting out because of a hamstring issue, participated in team drills and flashed his usual speed and quick cuts, especially on one long run up the left sideline.

• Rivera lauded the play of linebacker Cole Holcomb, who, at least for now, has assumed the role of the “Mike,” or middle linebacker. Holcomb lobbied for it after moving around for much of 2021 because of injuries at the position and the early struggles of then-rookie Jamin Davis. The role, however, is one of the more complicated, especially in Jack Del Rio’s defense because of all the responsibilities.

“I like the chess match of it,” Holcomb said. “I like taking control and being the one having to play that game with the quarterbacks and making the checks. I feel very capable.”