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Near the top of the Washington Football Team’s offseason to-do list was to add speed and talent at wide receiver to create more problems for the opposing defense. Last year, it had a budding star in Terry McLaurin, but the rotating cast around him showed promise at times and inconsistency at others.
McLaurin needed a complement. But Washington might have done even better.
“I think we went out and got a few complements to Terry,” Coach Ron Rivera said in May. “I think that group can be very dynamic for us.”
Through free agency and the draft, Washington rebuilt its receivers room to create a dynamic mix of talent. It signed Curtis Samuel, a receiver/running back hybrid with 4.31-second speed in the 40-yard dash; added Adam Humphries, a seventh-year wideout who has played primarily in the slot; drafted Dyami Brown, a vertical threat out of North Carolina, in the third round; and selected Dax Milne, the top target for No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson at BYU, in the seventh.
Washington also signed DeAndre Carter, a veteran who doubles as a returner, and welcomed back Kelvin Harmon from an ACL injury that sidelined him in 2020. And it still has several of its young players from last season, including Cam Sims, Steven Sims Jr., Isaiah Wright and Antonio Gandy-Golden.
“We have every skill set. There’s not something that’s lacking,” wide receivers coach Drew Terrell said Monday. “We have real vertical threats, we have guys that can play inside, guys that can play outside, guys that can move around and do different things, play multiple positions.”
Washington’s offense hasn’t been explosive in years. This season could be different.
Samuel, who was McLaurin’s first roommate at Ohio State, played for Rivera with Carolina and reminded the coach of what he was missing in Washington when the teams met last season. He recorded a career-best 158 scrimmage yards at FedEx Field in December, creating big plays from the backfield, the slot and out wide as Carolina’s Swiss Army knife.
“If he’s an outside player, playing the X or Z, you can account for him here, but when he is in the slot, it’s a whole other thing depending on if you like their matchup,” Rivera said as he explained the thought process in scouting Samuel. “Is the nickel capable of covering more if he’s in the slot, or is that a linebacker over him? Now he motions across the formation. Now we have to be ready for a jet sweep or be ready for some sort of pulling, trap or helping inside because Curtis has the ability to run inside as well. There are a lot of variables that come into trying to scout a multi-positional player like Curtis Samuel.”
Coordinator Scott Turner’s offense values versatility, and Washington already had multiple players with dual skill sets, including receivers-turned-running backs J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson and quarterback-turned-tight end Logan Thomas.
Washington discovered another versatile option in Cam Sims, who became the “glue to the group,” as Terrell said, by playing all three receiver positions — in addition to contributing to all four special teams units. Adding Samuel, as well as Humphries and Brown, has the potential to create an even bigger burden on opposing defenses.
“What it does is stretch the field,” Turner said. “What we did last year was play well sideline to sideline as far as horizontally stretching the field, getting completions that way, moving guys to open up holes for the run game and that type of thing. Now, if you can stretch the field vertically, it opens up the intermediate passing game, the short passing game. Instead of catching it and getting tackled for a seven-yard gain, Antonio Gandy-Golden Jersey Ebay, maybe it’s a 12-yard gain. Those things add up. If the defense is worried about the downfield passing, it opens up the run.
“It just all complements each other.”
It also creates more chances for big plays. Last year, Washington had only 94 explosive plays — receptions of 12-plus yards and rushes of 16-plus yards — to tie for the third fewest in the NFL, according to Sportradar. McLaurin accounted for nearly 28 percent of those.