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First Look: Commanders Defense Takes First Reps of the Season at OTA Practice

Notes and observations from our first look at Washington's 2022 defense

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Commanders are supposed to be a defensive-minded team. 

In 2021, that focus didn't result in as many wins as they wanted while Washington tried to get the offense on track after losing its starting quarterback for the year in the first quarter of regular season play. 

Washington Commanders OTA May 242
Washington Commanders OTA May 241
Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera

There's been a lot of talk about Cole Holcomb and his move to being the Mike linebacker for the Commanders defense. 

Traditionally, that position also sets the defense and relays the play call from the coordinator (Jack Del Rio) to the rest of the group. 

However, Holcomb already called the defense beginning in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL Season, something he emphasized to us on Tuesday when asked about adjusting to his new role. 

And he looked the part of a linebacker comfortable in his role, even if he was standing in a different spot on the field than we're used to. 

With that position somewhat solved, for now, we turned our attention to the Buffalo Nickel - a hybrid linebacker/safety that can be played by anyone who can cover with some ability but also be relied upon as a consistent tackler against the run game. 

I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see safety Darrick Forest in that position at times with the first-team defense, but unsurprised by the fact it rotated throughout several names. 

While safety Bobby McCain wouldn't fit what most would expect here, I saw him down in the box a couple of times as well while others like Kamren Curl and even Troy Apke manned the deep safety role. 

Of course, you know Curl got his reps down inside the box as well. 

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And while the hitting hasn't started to give us a real feel for how the rotation might work against offensive counters, the group looked fast and in position to make a play on every snap. 

Speaking of making plays, cornerback Corn Elder got the first interception off quarterback Carson Wentz in this portion of the offseason, and the entire unit - including defensive backs coach Chris Harris - proceeded to run down the field to celebrate with, well, nobody. 

But they had fun doing it. 

Cole Holcomb
Washington Commanders defensive lineman Jonathan Allen OTAs 24 May
Jonathan Allen

Not present on the field Tuesday were defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young. 

Sweat was absent tending to a personal matter according to Commanders coach, Ron Rivera.

Young is still recovering from his ACL injury suffered last season and was not present. 

As we said in the offensive look at this first glimpse of the Washington Commanders from OTA practice, this is just the beginning of what the team will ultimately become. 

Some good things were seen, and some areas are still going to have questions around them until we start seeing live competition in the preseason at the earliest. 

At the very least we now have a starting point to compare future opportunities to see the defense as it develops and as key players continue to return to the group.