For Redskins rookies, getting to suit up for their first-ever regular season games has been more than just a dream come true. It's offered the first real look into the demands of the NFL.
Leading up to the 2019 campaign, these players have been introduced to the league in various ways. There were offseason workouts, training camp and four preseason games. They could also lean on their veteran teammates for advice and perspective.
All of these experiences were crucial in adjusting to life in the NFL, yet none of them could compare to the thrill of their first meaningful snaps.
"The NFL is even more than I thought it'd be," said third-round draft pick Terry McLaurin after the team's regular-season opener Sept. 8. "As I went along the course of the game, I noticed how competitive everybody was. Everything was turned up from the preseason."
For McLaurin, and the other rookies who have seen playing time -- wideouts Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon, linebackers Montez Sweat and Cole Holcomb, and cornerback Jimmy Moreland -- there hasn't been too much time to adapt to everything that's required to compete at this level.
In Holcomb's eyes, this has meant fine-tuning his preparation.
"In training camp, you're just going out and learning your defense and you're playing [against] your own players," said Holcomb, a fifth-round selection out of North Carolina. "Now, we're preparing to play a different team. I'm starting to see more big picture: how offenses work and what they're trying to get at."
Despite their inexperience, head coach Jay Gruden feels comfortable relying on first-year players to make immediate contributions. McLaurin, Sweat, Holcomb and Moreland have all played a majority of the Redskins' snaps through two weeks.
As for undrafted rookie Steven Sims, who was featured in a variety of ways in Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys, it's all about getting as many touches as he can: "However I get on the field, I'll get on," he said. "Kick return, punt return, handing me the ball off at running back, jet motions, whatever."
To their credit, many of the rookies have handled the rigors of the NFL well. Some have even flourished.
In Week 1, McLaurin earned a Pepsi Rookie of the Week nomination for his five-catch, 125-yard performance in the Redskins season-opening loss in Philadelphia. He followed that up with five more receptions for 62 yards and another score against Dallas.
Meanwhile, Sweat, Holcomb and Moreland have combined for 33 tackles through two weeks.
"You really have to be conditioned well because you gotta be that guy who can be an every-down player," said McLaurin.
As the regular season progresses, it's clear that the aura of playing on Sundays has begun to fade. That's important as these players focus more on establishing themselves within the organization.
"In the beginning, there was a lot of nerves, but once I got that first hit in it just became football again," Holcomb said. "There wasn't time to sit back and think, 'Oh, this is awesome.' No, it's, 'Hey man, this is ball, we gotta go.'"