National Football League
Jayden Daniels already showing he's the start of something good in D.C.
National Football League

Jayden Daniels already showing he's the start of something good in D.C.

Published Jun. 13, 2024 12:34 p.m. ET

The entire Washington D.C. area has already rolled out the red carpet for Jayden Daniels. He's thrown out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. He was a special guest when the U.S. men's soccer team played a friendly against Colombia. He can feel he's the center of attention wherever he goes.

That comes with being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 draft and the franchise quarterback the hard-luck Commanders have been dreaming about for decades. But Daniels seems to understand that fame can be fleeting. His star will fall if he doesn't quickly live up to all the hype.

"I mean, I ain't a star quarterback yet," Daniels said after a minicamp practice on Wednesday. "I got a long way to go."

But at least he'll have plenty of time to get there.


That's because the 23-year-old Daniels certainly appears to be entrenched as the Washington Commanders starting quarterback. He got most of the first-team reps at minicamp this week, despite the presence of his veteran backup, Marcus Mariota, and there's no indication at all that will change once training camp begins.

There has always been dueling schools of thought on how quickly to throw rookie quarterbacks into the fire. Some prefer them to sit and learn — either for weeks, months, or sometimes even years behind veteran quarterbacks. Others think it's better to let them start from the beginning so they can get the mistakes of their learning curve out of the way.

And though Commanders coach Dan Quinn won't commit to anything this early, it seems clear that Washington is leaning towards the latter. This will be Daniels' team, for better or for worse — or at least as long as they can tolerate any of the bad.

"I think what's important for Jayden, as the reps are now happening, (is) how are you doing in the execution of those?" Quinn said on Tuesday. "The expectation is just to see how familiar he is with the concepts. We've put in a big package. Now it's about execution."

That's a coachspeak way of saying they are throwing everything they can at Daniels now to see if he's capable of handling it — so they can begin to gauge if they can trust him to run the offense once the regular season begins. And the early returns were excellent. He's had an outstanding spring, according to those who have watched him closely. And he's dazzled at times with both his arms and his legs.

He's also begun to win over his veteran teammates with both his humble nature and his work ethic. He has routinely been one of the first to arrive at the Commanders' facility each day. Daniels said he usually arrives around 5:45 a.m. And he's kept his focus on "learning how to be a pro," not the trappings that come along with that.

"He's going to be a really good player because of the time and the work that he puts in," said Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin. "I don't think I've had a young quarterback that really has come in and, within the first week, he's like, ‘Hey, can we (work on) this route?' or, ‘Let me get this rep after practice?' It's exciting for me."

"I'm proud of the strides he's made so far," said new Washington running back Austin Ekeler. "(He's) embraced the leadership role. Things that I love to see, especially from the quarterbacks, is if you don't like a route, your calling me up. He's done that a few times after practice we are out here getting routes."

That sometimes can be tough for a rookie quarterback to do. And it can often be even tougher to get the veterans to appreciate. But Daniels, in just six short weeks, has managed to earn his teammates' respect.

What is Commanders QB Jayden Daniels' NFL ceiling?

To keep it, though, he'll need to transfer that to the field — something no one will know for sure if he'll be able to do until September. All he can do now is put in the work and hope that eventually it will all pay off.

"I would just say as you rep more things, obviously you start getting the grasp of the playbook," Daniels said. "But I mean, I still got a long way to go to be where I want to be. (I) try to perfect it, try to be a perfectionist as much as possible."

That's exactly what the Commanders want, of course. They don't want him standing and watching and learning from the examples of others. They want him on the field with the first team as often as possible trying to perfect his craft. That will likely be their approach when training camp starts in late July, even if Quinn doesn't immediately declare the quarterback job to be Daniels' to lose.

But it is, and they don't expect him to lose it. They think he's ready to prove he is everything they expect him to be. That's what they've seen this spring.

"Not only does the physical traits show up, its the work ethic," Quinn said. "I think that through the years and through the season, you guys will feel that and see that."

The Commanders see it already. That's why Daniels will get his chance to turn around the franchise right from the start.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more