By Adam Aniba
The first episode of NBC Washington's "Command Center" just debuted with Episode 1 "Coach Commands", in which HC Ron Rivera answered fan questions. Yours truly had a question regarding the receiving group. (clip in tweet below for the WR discussion).
The Starting WR's
Rookie Jahan Dotson has impressed coaches and teammates all offseason. The Nittany Lions receiver is a decisive route runner and just might have the best hands of any of the 1st round receivers drafted.
Some fans were disappointed after Ron Rivera traded back from #11 to #16 to select Dotson, subsequently passing on WR's Alabama's Jameson Williams and OSU's Chris Olave. The fact is, both Williams and Olave had superb supporting casts in addition to excellent QB play.
In comparison, Dotson was the center of attention at PSU during the '21 season and was often keyed in on by opposing defenses. He routinely bailed out his QB with acrobatic catches, due to underthrown/erratic throws.
Dotson finished his senior season with 1,182 yards receiving for 12 TDs with a 13.0 yard per reception average.
In Washington, McLaurin will draw the attention of opposing defenses and Dotson will have strong armed quarterback for the first time in his career. Having a signal caller who can truly push the ball down field, will allow Dotson to be utilized and thrive on go-routes .
Per Ron Rivera; "His (Dotson) ceiling is so high it's amazing."
Fresh of a new contract extension, Terry McLaurin comes into this season with three straight 1,000 yard receiving seasons and a career 13.9 yard per reception average. Even more impressive, McLaurin will be catching passes from his 9th starting QB in Carson Wentz.
The former OSU receiver is the unquestioned WR1 and franchise player for this organization. In Wentz, McLaurin finally has a strong armed signal caller that can sling it and consistently fit the ball into tight windows.
Although Washington has more depth and talent at the WR & RB position, getting the ball in McLaurin's hands, early and often in games will be imperative to their overall success this season and beyond.
Since signing Curtis Samuel in '21 to a $34.5 million with $21.5 guaranteed, the results have been disappointing. After only playing in 5 games due to injury, Samuel managed to secure only 6 receptions for 27 yards and 4 rushes for 11 yards with zero touchdowns.
Samuel has been active during training camp and has impressed coaches. Per Rivera, the goal is to get Samuel out in space, lining up in the backfield, at slot or anywhere else that could possibly lead to a mismatch.
Although Samuel was a proven receiver in Carolina, if he can't stay out of the treatment room, expectations should be tempered.
The WR Depth
Washington's receiving group is rounded out by Cam Sims, Dyami Brown and Dax Milne. In Sims, OC Scott Turner as the big-bodied outside possession receiver, that provides Wentz with an effective red zone weapon.
Next on the list is the former BYU receiver, who boasts the ability to make plays in space per Rivera and could see snaps in sub-packages. Milne was listed as the primary KR and PR on the Week 1 depth chart, so he'll definitely be active on game day.
The last receiver to make the 53-man roster was former '21 3rd round selection Dyami Brown. Rivera mentioned that he was impressed with Brown's speed, but the lack of effort when asked to block and drops during the pre-season, have been a topic of discussion among fans.
Brown could be a healthy scratch on game days, unless he shows coaches he's willing to give it all and do the dirty work to win. Bottom line, if he can't catch the ball, he won't see many reps at receiver.
With Robinson shelved for the next month or so, Washington elected to keep 4 RB's with J.D. McKissic and Jonathan Williams rounding out the group. Although McKissic is second on the depth chart, Rivera indicated that Williams could also have a role as their early down power back.
Gibson was the featured weapon for former Memphis head coach Mike Norvell. The hybrid receiver transferred to Memphis in '18 from the JUCO level, playing in only 5 games registering 6 rec for 99 and 2 TDs that season.
In '19, Gibson was the Tigers featured weapon on offense, finishing the season with 1,104 total yards on offense with 12 tds. Although AG saw action as a running back in the Tigers offense, 735 of his yards and 8 of his TDs came in the receiving game.
SInce arriving in Washington, most of the play calls for Gibson have been run plays. In fact, in 30 games he's rushed 428 times for 1,832 yards, resulting in 18 TDs on the ground (4.3 yards per carry), but only has 541 yards for 3 TDs on 78 receptions . Many of AG's receptions came on screens or short receptions coming out of the backfield.
Some believed that Rivera was molding Gibson into his version of Christian McCaffrey, but that has always been a stretch. After being demoted during the pre-season, based on ongoing fumbling issues (6 fumbles in '21), the coach believes getting Gibson out in space is the best way to utilize is skill set.
Hopefully that doesn't strictly entail more screens/checkdowns. Gibson is willing and capable of running a large portion of the route tree concepts with success, based on his JUCO/Memphis film evaltion.
New QB quarterback Carson Wentz might just have the best receiving core he's ever had, but as Rivera mentioned on the Command Center, it will only work if all the receivers develop and grow.