WFT training camp: Under-the-radar players to watch

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Under-the-radar WFT players who could use a strong training camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Football Team begins training camp this Tuesday. That bears repeating: The Washington Football Team will be doing football team-y things on football fields starting this Tuesday.

Now, which lesser-known members of the Burgundy and Gold would most benefit from a successful camp, which commences in Richmond, Va. and wraps up in Ashburn, Va.?

Here are five such players who could really solidify their standing on the depth chart by playing good football during the next few weeks...

Antonio Gandy-Golden

Any receiver not named Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown would fit in this story, but let's go with Gandy-Golden to kick things off.

The fourth-round choice last year arrived with quite a bit of fanfare, thanks to a highlight tape from Liberty that consisted of many contested catches where he used his rare size to bully opposing defensive backs. 

Yet in his rookie campaign, both at camp and in his limited snaps during the year, AGG was hardly heard from; he had immense trouble getting any sort of separation, and that issue along with injuries limited him to a single reception for three yards in 2020. That stat line is anything but golden.

So, the wideout should be ready to bring it in camp this time around. It's rare for a team to move on from a draft pick after just one season, but with how little Gandy-Golden proved as a rookie and how much the overall receiver position has been bolstered, he can't feel comfortable. For him, it's about staying healthy and showing the staff that he can be a dominant jump-ball target, which is an area that the offense is lacking.

Sammis Reyes

Reyes' background and engaging personality make him an easy player to root for, but that doesn't matter once camp opens up. It's time for the project tight end to make noticeable strides.

During Washington's OTAs and minicamp, Reyes understandably had trouble with his hands, his alignment and a few other aspects of his new gig. And to a certain extent, coach Ron Rivera and his offensive assistants will let Reyes work through those, seeing as he's completely new to the sport (camp, for example, will bring with it live situations, and the ex-college basketball player has never been tackled). 

However, with Logan Thomas entrenched as the starter and John Bates, Ricky Seals-Jones, Temarrick Hemingway and others also on the depth chart, Reyes must hold his own. That means being more reliable when the ball comes his way, having the technique to become a respectable blocker and exhibiting his unique athleticism whenever possible.

Hoping to sneak the still-developing Reyes onto the practice squad could be dicey – when he signed with Washington, he told reporters he had heard from numerous other franchises — but Rivera won't just slot him on the roster if he's not deserving of it. Reyes is a feel-good story, but that story's length remains undetermined. 

Keith Ismael

As far as camp battles go, the fight for backup interior offensive line jobs is about as sexy as a pile of bricks. That said, those spots matter, and as of now, Ismael's is far from reserved.

Washington nabbed Ismael in the fifth round of the 2020 draft, and he went on to log a handful of snaps on special teams in his first year as a pro. Now, he finds himself behind the likes of Wes Schweitzer and Ereck Flowers and next to the likes of Saahdiq Charles, Wes Martin and Tyler Larsen. 

Ismael is versatile in that he can line up at guard and center, but his peers have that flex ability as well. He has the advantage of being a selection of the current regime (Martin, on the other hand, can't claim the same) but that will only carry him so far.

Khaleke Hudson

Just like Gandy-Golden and Ismael, Hudson is a former Day 3 pick who's about to embark on his second NFL season. What separates him from the other two, though, is that his place on the roster feels a bit more secure — emphasis on "feels" — and this summer for him is more about earning a contributing role on Sundays.

Rivera and Jack Del Rio's defense features a lot of guys who have the skillset to handle both defensive back and some light linebacker/big nickel duties; Kam Curl, Landon Collins and Darrick Forrest all come to mind, and so does Hudson, who was responsible for all kinds of assignments in school at Michigan.

In 2020, Hudson registered just 51 snaps on defense, but 50 of those came in Weeks 15, 16 and 17. That would suggest his stock was rising in December and January. Will that trend continue in July and August?

Any of the backup pass rushers

In an ideal world, Chase Young and Montez Sweat would stay on the field for every single play, and in the 2021 real world, that will basically happen. Even so, those two will require rest at various points of each matchup, and the depth behind them is concerning.

After Young and Sweat, there's 2020 seventh-rounder James Smith-Williams, 2021 seventh-rounders William Bradley-King and Shaka Toney and 2020 free agent signing Casey Toohill. Diehard fans of the organization would be hard-pressed to go four-for-four in naming that quartet.

If you want to view the situation in a positive manner, Rivera and Del Rio have four young pass rushers to coach up and work with. Also... well, actually, that's about it.

It's always possible Washington attempts to add a veteran defensive end to help spell their two cornerstones, but currently, they're rolling with an inexperienced bunch. Watching who emerges out of that group will be a low-key fascinating part of camp.