Building Offensive Chemistry in Washington While Gearing Up for the NFL Draft
Updated: Apr 17, 2021
After signing Ryan Fitzpatrick and cornerback William Jackson III, Washington addressed, arguably, their biggest position of need in free agency. Curtis Samuel was the first receiver to sign, inking a 3-year deal. A week later, they agreed to terms with veteran receiver Adam Humphries on a 1-year deal. Head Coach Ron Rivera will continue to add to the roster through the draft, with receiver being one of the deepest positions in this year's class.
Let's take a look at the additions Washington has made at receiver and how the upgrades will help enhance Scott Turner's offense.
In addition, we'll go through a few draft prospects that Riviera could target on Day 2-3 of the April 30th Draft.
Adding Rivera Guys
In his first season as head coach, Ron Rivera emphasized building chemistry among his players. This season, in an effort to resurrect the passing game in Washington, he brought in another high character veteran in quarterback, Ryan FItzpatrick, to replace Alex Smith. With the exception of Terry McLaurin, no receiver came close to the 1,000 receiving yard mark or being the complimentary weapon that is desperately needed in Washington.
Although receivers like Kenny Golladay and Corey Davis were the top FA's available at the position, Rivera went went in a different direction. With McLaurin on the verge of becoming one of the highest paid receivers in the league, the head coach opted to bring in a familiar, but reasonably priced option (3-year $34.5 mil) in former Carolina panther WR/RB, Curtis Samuel.
At only 24 years old, Samuel, who like Antonio Gibson and J.D.McKissic, played a hybrid role in college. The former Panther accumulated 2,087 rec yards 14 td's in addition to 72 rushes for 478 yards 5 td's in 53 total games (played 31 of 32 games 2019-2020). Samuel is just scratching the surface of his talent as a receiver, but adds a skill-set that could keep defensive coordinators up at night.
Although Washington OC Scott Turner ran the Carolina offense for a few games after Ron Rivera was fired, Carolina OC Joe Brady has been credited with Samuel's best year as a pro. In 2020 Samuel broke out with 1,051 all purpose yards (77 rec for 851 on 97 targets) with his best game coming against Washington recording 158 all-purpose yards.
Samuel and Terry McLaurin played together at Ohio State University during their 2015 National Championship run. Although McLaurin didn't record a reception that season while being used on special teams, Samuel's influence has been well documented, as was the bond they formed.
Per ESPN's John Keim on Curtis Samuels playing with fellow Buckeye Terry McLaurin:
"We always talked about being teammates. That [sounded] far-fetched. The opportunity presented itself. I was like, hold on I got the opportunity to play with him? Phenomenal player; great athlete...It's amazing".
Samuel went on to discuss his thought process when choosing to come to Washington.
"McLaurin is a 4.35 guy and Gibson runs a 4.39. It scares a lot of defenses. Having a versatile running back... there are unlimited things we can do. It puts the defense in positions it doesn't want to be in."
Adding Another Familiar Face
Although it's been 3 years, Fitzpatrick and Adam Humphries developed a rapport while in Tampa Bay together that carried over off the field.
During Monday's zoom presser Adam Humphries had the following to say on reuniting with Ryan Fitzpatrick (CLICK for previous article)
"Ryan was a key reason he wanted to sign here. Said his two years with him in Tampa were "some of the most fun in my career." A QB with a fearless mindset always pleases WRs".
Humphries began his career in Tampa Bay spending four seasons as a Buccaneer and had his best season as a pro while playing with Fitzpatrick in 2018. In that season, Humphries had a career-high of 76 receptions, 816 receiving yards and 5 receiving touchdowns. Humphries moved on to Tennessee thereafter, but was limited to 19 games and just four starts over the past two seasons, due in large part to injuries.
Humphries becomes the veteran in Washington's receiver room with 79 career games under his belt and if healthy, still has a lot to offer in the slot, but also as an outside receiver. Reuniting Fitzpatrick with Humphries will provide Washington with yet another experienced receiving option and add to their overall depth, which lacks experience. Humphries should capitalize on opportunities underneath with McLaurin and others posing real threats in the downfield passing game.
Although Washington added Samuel and Humphrey in free agency, the depth and overall talent at receiver could be the deepest position in this year's draft. It's unlikely that Rivera will select a receiver in Round 1 unless one of the top three receiving prospects (J.Chase/J.Waddle/D.Smith) somehow fall to #19. Minnesota's Rashod Bateman, Purdue's Rondale Moore and LSU's Terrace Marshall Jr have risen up many draft boards as well. However, the recent additions at receiver for Washington could make it a stretch to go WR so early, with more pressing needs at MLB, LT, TE, FS etc.
Washington's pick #51 could also be too early to select a prospect such as Florida's Kadarius Toney, who offers a similar skill set to Samuel. However, rounds 3-5 seem to be the ideal spot for Rivera to add the type of speedy motion receiver that can play all over the field. OC Scott Turner has been attempting to implement his hybrid version of the "Air Coreal" passing game with an emphasis on finding receivers that can spread the field in the downfield passing attack.
The recent pro-days of players like UNC's Dyami Brown and UCS's Amon-Ra St. Brown (brother Equanimeous St.Brown, Packers WR) displayed the type of talent that can be found in the 2nd/3rd tier group of receivers in this draft, which could net starters. Other options include Elijah Moore, Dwayne Eskridge, Amari Rodgers, Dazz Newsome, Marquez Stevenson, and Chatarius "Tuto" Atwell. Two potential Day 3 options, Jaelon Darden (ClICK CARD BELOW) and Shi Smith were featured as Burgundy and Gold Report Prospect Cards. Both offer the type of big play capability that Washington's new look passing game will surely feature.
Washington's free agent additions should go a long way in getting the passing game in position to win some games for Ron Rivera, as the defense continues to be the teams identity. The draft will be an opportunity solidify the receiving core while adding to the overall talent on special teams. One thing is clear, the passing game in Washington will look dramatically different in 2021.
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Written By Adam Aniba
*Pictures credit to Foxnew.com