- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 30, 2020

ASHBURN — Normally, Ron Rivera gathers his team and gives them a message after practice. But on Sunday, with training camp winding down, the Washington coach gave his speech before drills began.

Sunday’s practice, he told them, would involve the most contact yet. He challenged players fighting for a dwindling number of roster spots to take advantage of the opportunity.

“Show us what you can do,” Rivera said.

Speaking to reporters later, Rivera said there are still seven to eight roster spots undecided before the team has to go from 80 to 53 players by next Saturday. He added Sunday was particularly important for the team’s younger players to see who stood out.

With all that at stake, here’s a look at who capitalized on the day:

Chase Young

 Look, Chase Young isn’t one of those seven-to-eight players fighting for a roster spot. But let’s a take a second to recognize that the second overall pick has been everything as advertised now that he appears to be fully healthy from his nagging hip injury. On Sunday, running back Adrian Peterson tried to bulldoze through the line of scrimmage — only for Young to explode off the line and completely swallow Peterson as the rookie slammed the former MVP to the ground.

Young is now working with the starters and it’s hard to imagine him losing that spot by Week 1.

“It just shows you how dynamic the young man can be,” Rivera said. “He can be a tempo setter.”

Antonio Gibson

 When Washington drafted Gibson out of Memphis in the third round, Gibson and coaches emphasized the receiver-turned-running back could be a weapon anywhere on the field — out of the backfield, in the slot or even out wide running routes. Through camp, Gibson has shown that. And when he’s on the field, he seems to be heavily involved. Sunday was a big reminder of how Gibson can be featured — and in a variety of ways. Gibson might not be Washington’s main back, but he seems to be a factor.

Gibson said the volume of reps he’s received are more than he expected, but added it shows that the coaching staff “sees something in me.” He said he was ready to handle the workload.

“(Defensive back,) linebacker, whoever you put out there I got the mindset if you line up in front of me, you have to give me your all,” Gibson said. “I feel nobody can guard me if you line up across from me. That’s my mindset.”

Cam Sims

 Wide receiver Cam Sims was one of the breakout stars of last year’s training camp in Richmond — yet he only had three catches in seven games in 2019. Entering his third year, Sims seems solely on the bubble and he had moments on Sunday that helped his cause to make the roster. Sims hauled in a deep bomb down the sideline from Kyle Allen in what was the most eye-popping catch of the day. Then later on, Sims earned praise from special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor for playing his assignment correctly on a kickoff.

Special teams are vital for end-of-the-roster-types, and Rivera said he was eager to watch film of Sunday’s practice to gauge that area. Rivera said he recently had Kaczor rank Washington’s roster in terms of special teams contributors to help him with his evaluation.

“You sit there and look at it and say, ‘Well, this guy might be our best fourth or fifth or sixth guy, but he’s not one of our best special team guys,’” Rivera said. “Those are things we have to factor in.”

Wes Martin

Washington’s left guard competition is still very much undecided, and on Sunday, it was Wes Martin’s turn to make an impression. The second-year lineman was coming off a few rough practices in which he was demoted to being a backup, with Joshua Garnett and rookie Keith Ismael getting their chance with the starters (Ismael was at center, while Chase Roullier filled in at guard.)

Martin, though, was back with the first-team and seemed to hold his own. Rivera noted the 24-year-old is a “good pulling guard” who can work his way up to the second level.

Jimmy Moreland

Moreland’s best stretch Sunday was a pair of back-to-back plays when he first broke up a pass with a roaring hit and then also came away with an interception in the back of the end zone, a ball he should have caught. After starting five games as a rookie, Moreland looks like he’s made another jump in Year 2. The 5-foot-11 corner seems more comfortable in the slot after playing there most of his rookie season, and his ability to play outside helps Washington be versatile on defense.

Moreland has shined more than Fabian Moreau or Greg Stroman, two players competing with Moreland to be the team’s third corner.

“Right now, I’m getting better trusting myself and being able to trust the players around me as well,” Moreland said Saturday. “ Now I’m just getting the flow, knowing where I’m supposed to be, reading my keys better and playing way faster than I was last year.”

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