Three Commanders who have intrigued coaches this spring

Terry McLaurin praises 'extremely confident' Jayden Daniels' preparation (2:12)

Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin joins Scott Van Pelt to talk about how quickly Jayden Daniels has settled in with Washington. (2:12)

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Commanders first draft pick this spring will garner the most attention. Jayden Daniels could solve their decades-long quest to find a franchise quarterback. But the development of other first-round picks on the roster will help determine Washington's success this season -- and impact its shopping needs next offseason.

Of Washington's previous four first-round picks, one (defensive end Chase Young) is no longer on the team. The other three -- linebacker Jamin Davis, receiver Jahan Dotson and corner Emmanuel Forbes Jr. -- all enter training camp with questions. Davis is experimenting at a new position; Dotson has been productive, but the team needs more; and Forbes must prove he's worthy of starting.

But with a new coach in Dan Quinn, the group gets to start over.

"Out with the old, in with the new," Davis said. "Get a chance to brush everything off and just go ball out."

Each player showed something this spring that will make him intriguing come August.

Jamin Davis, LB

Washington drafted Davis 19th overall in 2021, hoping his size (6-foot-4, 234 pounds) and speed (4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash) would equate to a standout linebacker. Though Davis improved steadily, the new regime still signed Bobby Wagner and Frankie Luvu in free agency while declining Davis' fifth-year option. They also signed veteran Anthony Pittman and drafted Jordan Magee in the fifth round, building depth.

What does this mean for Davis? For the spring it meant seeing if he could develop into an edge rusher, from both a two- and three-point stance. By minicamp, that's where he spent most, if not all, of his time.

"He's a big, strong, fast man that has the ability to bend," new defensive coordinator Joe Whitt said. "We have a history of playing guys in positions they might not normally be used to. He's a willing guy that's excited about it."

Davis has averaged 4.6 pass rushes per game and recorded seven sacks over three seasons. Of those sacks, three occurred because the quarterback couldn't beat Davis, aligned in coverage, to the outside. One happened when Davis was over the right guard in a two-point stance, stunted to the middle and used his speed.

To help the transition, Davis spent extra time working after practice with assistant linebackers coach Ryan Kerrigan -- the franchise's all-time sack leader.

"I feel extremely comfortable," Davis said. "It's giving me a chance to cut it loose and go hunt some quarterbacks. I'll see where it takes me."

Quinn used his linebackers in versatile roles while coaching the defense in Dallas -- Micah Parsons lined up all over the place -- and wants to see what Davis can handle.

"We're trying to really push him on the versatility," Quinn said. "If that's something that he can add value for himself and for the team, then we'll dig in and that'll take a while as well. That's not something that's in one practice or in one week to say, 'OK, it's there.' I've been very impressed by his work ethic."

Jahan Dotson, WR

On one rep early during the spring workouts, Dotson beat Mike Davis' press coverage for an impressive catch. Up[on seeing it play out, fellow receiver Terry McLaurin couldn't contain his excitement, yelling out: "If you use your hands like that at the line, they can't stop you!"

It's an area Dotson has worked on this offseason. His feet are good; his hands -- helping him escape press coverage -- needed to improve. Dotson, drafted 16th overall in 2022, has caught a combined 84 passes with 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Washington needs a stronger second receiver alongside McLaurin. The Commanders also drafted Luke McCaffrey in the third round.

"I wasn't a fan of my season last year, so I went really hard this off season making sure that I'm a lot better," said Dotson, who worked out at Florida Atlantic with strength coach Joey Guarascio. "Last year I just didn't feel like myself, but I'm starting to feel like I'm getting my swagger back a little bit."

And he likes that Washington drafted Daniels, whom he has worked out with in the past.

"That's the quarterback I wanted," Dotson said.

A key will be trying to incorporate his downfield skills more; Daniels was considered an excellent deep ball passer in college. In 2022, Dotson gained 20 or more yards on 28.6% of his catches. Last year that percentage plummeted to 10.2. His average air yards per target was 14.35 as a rookie compared to 9.25 last season.

Many factors contributed to that dropoff, but receivers coach Bobby Engram said part of it stems from Dotson needing stronger hands at the line of scrimmage. Also, he has an NFL-high 7.0 pass drop percentage in his first two seasons combined.

"Press releases have been a focus," Engram said. "He's figuring out what the next step is for him and how to get better. He knows if he's really good at the line it will allow him to be more dominant down the field.

"He has such great feet in terms of his quickness at the line [so] the emphasis has been on his hands, not allowing guys to be as physical as they want to be."

Emmanuel Forbes, CB

A new year. A new staff. A new outlook for Forbes.

"Oh yeah, 1,000% fresh start," Forbes said. "They're giving me the opportunity to showcase my talent."

Forbes, selected 16th overall in 2023, set an NCAA record for interceptions returned for a touchdown. However, with Washington, he started only six of the 14 games he played in -- a result of injuries and poor performance -- and intercepted one pass. Quinn's Dallas defenses led the NFL with a combined 93 takeaways during his three seasons as defensive coordinator.

Washington rotated its defensive players with regularity throughout the spring, though Forbes often was among the first two corners in full-team work. At times, Davis, a free agent signee, worked ahead of him. The Commanders also have Benjamin St-Juste, rookie Mike Sainristil -- who is expected to play in the slot -- and Noah Igbinoghene. If Forbes doesn't show he can be a quality starter this season, Washington will need to find at least one and possibly two corners in the 2025 offseason.

Forbes' thin frame caused concern before the draft. He is listed at 173 pounds and said he's added muscle this offseason. One of his former Commanders coaches said his weight wasn't an issue except when he faced Philadelphia Eagles receiver A.J. Brown.

"It helps me a lot," Forbes said of the added weight. "I can put hands on people and not get over-bullied or overpowered."

But he'll have to show that in August with the pads on -- and demonstrate consistent technique with his footwork in coverage, another problem area according to last year's staff.

The new staff inherits a player who ran the third-fastest time among corners at the 2023 combine while having the fifth-longest wingspan.

"The first part is really the ball skills and to be able to turn the ball over," Quinn said. "And that's his superpower. He's bigger than he was for sure, but the length and the ball skills ... that position really calls for athleticism, the ball skills and having that length to be able to defend some of the bigger players."