In the doldrums of camp, Commanders RBs coach keeps things interesting

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Three weeks into training camp, much of the practice slate has become routine, consistent from one day to the next. But the running backs’ individual drills are never predictable.

Washington Commanders running backs coach Randy Jordan equates the process of coming up with new drills to baking a cake, adding ingredients until it meets a standard that satisfies him. He changes the set of drills daily and intentionally with the goal of honing four skills: change-of-direction, protection, catching the ball and ball security.

“When I’m watching tape and I see my player doing something that I don’t have a drill for, [if it’s a situation] that surprises them, I go back to the lab,” Jordan said earlier in camp.

On Monday, after lead back Antonio Gibson fumbled against Carolina, it was ball security. The backs rolled over a yoga ball, high-stepped over training bags and held the ball high and tight while assistant running backs coach Jennifer King, wearing a boxing glove, tried to punch it out.

The preference for variety is something Jordan adopted from Bill Callahan, for whom Jordan played and coached with for years at Nebraska and in Oakland with the Raiders. They worked together in Washington from 2015 to 2019, and Callahan used to tell Jordan: “There is not a drill that you should ever do that doesn’t show up on tape.”

Jordan’s intention is that players will not be able to anticipate his drills before they begin, prompting a concerted effort to keep them on their toes, both literally and metaphorically.

Antonio Gibson is leaner, confident and ready to help carry Washington’s offense

One drill, dubbed the “Shake ‘N’ Bake,” involves moving laterally before reacting to King’s signal to cut left or right. Another, called a “starburst,” is designed to help players use their off hands to avoid going to the ground when getting tackled.

To explain why he sends them through two reps of the drills — one on each side — Jordan returns to another food analogy.

“I say, ‘You go to a buffet, right?” he said. “You don’t want to be able to eat just on one side of the buffet.’”

The tight end room is still dealing with several injuries. Neither John Bates (calf) nor Sammis Reyes (hamstring) participated in practice, and Coach Ron Rivera said it was the “slight pull” that limited Reyes to just two snaps against Carolina. Rivera said Cole Turner (hamstring) is a week or two from returning.

“I feel I’m good to go, but they want to take it slow and be cautious,” Turner said. “I’m all for that.”

Swing tackle Cornelius Lucas passed his physical and was activated off the non-football illness list. He filled in at left tackle for Charles Leno Jr., who along with left guard Andrew Norwell had a vet day.

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel (conditioning) was a full participant in practice, and cornerback Benjamin St-Juste (hamstring), who sat out Saturday, was a full participant as well.

Monday was Washington’s first rainy practice of camp — and Rivera ended it early. After the rain got heavier and a few players slipped — including reserve offensive lineman Aaron Monteiro, was once slow to get up — the coach called it with 3:44 left in the ninth period. The team usually has between 10 and 12 periods per practice.

Rivera harps on details for young players

Re-watching film from the preseason opener against Carolina, Rivera said he got to “zero in” on certain positions, such as the linebackers, the lines and the young defensive backs, who he thought had disappointing eye discipline: “They missed so many things that they weren’t missing out here.”

One thing that stood out to him was the young receivers’ inconsistency in the depth of their routes.

In the second quarter, second-year wideout Dyami Brown ran a roughly 15-yard, in-breaking “dig” route, and a Panthers safety clobbered him, forcing an incompletion. Next time, Rivera said, Brown should cut and run in at a 90-degree angle rather than floating deeper into the field.

“If he comes and cuts that off sharp and even works back a little bit toward the line of scrimmage, he doesn’t give that safety enough time to get there to make the play,” Rivera said. “Those are little detailed things that we as coaches can point out.”

Charles tries to capitalize on opportunities

Because of injuries and vet days, reserve offensive lineman Saahdiq Charles has taken a fair number of first-team reps at right or left guard. Charles served as a backup guard and tackle last year, and when he’s been healthy this camp he’s had a chance to show coaches he’s capable of a larger role.

Recently, Charles said he heard a story about a player who watched his old highlights to gain confidence and play better, so he did the same and tweeted a video of a block from last season.

In it, Charles, the left guard, flattened Philadelphia defensive end Cameron Malveaux to create a running lane for a touchdown.

What did he like most about the play?

“Pancake touchdown,” Charles said.

“Pancake touchdown,” he repeated, laughing.

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