Terry McLaurin Speaks Out on Departure of Key Commanders Player - Sport News

Terry McLaurin Speaks Out on Departure of Key Commanders Player

Terry McLaurin wasn’t happy to see Curtis Samuel leave the Washington Commanders for the Buffalo Bills in 2024 NFL free agency. McLaurin described Samuel’s departure as “a loss for our room…,” and also outlined a number of reasons why his fellow wide receiver will be missed.

Those reasons include Samuel’s ability to “make plays inside and outside… he kept things light, but he was also a hard worker,” per ESPN’s John Keim.

It’s clear McLaurin believes Samuel will be missed on many levels after signing a three-year deal with the Bills. That’s possible, although it’s also easy to argue the Commanders rarely got the best out of Samuel’s dual-threat skill-set.

What Samuel’s exit means is the pressure is now firmly on McLaurin to lead a revamped receiver corps. The responsibility will require McLaurin becoming a more well-rounded wideout.

Terry McLaurin Can Redefine His Role

McLaurin has thrived as an outside receiver during five productive years in Washington. Four-straight 1,000-yard seasons means the 28-year-old will retain his status as the Commanders’ go-to target, but he’ll need to redefine his role without Samuel.

McLaurin’s usually won by beating coverage on the perimeter. His straight-line speed and the toughness to reel in contested catches in traffic make the 2019 third-round draft pick a classic vertical threat outside the numbers.

Those things showed up when McLaurin burned the New York Giants for this spectacular catch in Week 7.

New offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury won’t waste McLaurin’s skills on the outside, but No. 17 can add to his game by running more inside routes. McLaurin played 941 snaps last season, per Pro Football Reference, but he spent just 116 of them in the slot, according to Player Profiler.

It’s not as if McLaurin doesn’t have the attributes to be a factor between the hashmarks. The 6-foot, 210-pounder is physical enough to win inside, but must boost his yards after the catch.

McLaurin tallied 350 yards after catch in 2023, down from 394 the previous season. He also averaged 4.4 yards after catch per reception last season, compared with 5.1 a year earlier.

Moving across formations more often and working inside would surely improve those statistics. One way it could happen was highlighted by Nate Tice of The Athletic in 2022.

Motion from Jahan Dotson (1) helped create space for McLaurin from the slot. Their partnership will be vital in helping the Commanders move on from Samuel.

Commanders Have Options to Replace Curtis Samuel

The Commanders have already filled the void on the depth chart created by Samuel’s departure, by signing Olamide Zaccheaus. He won’t be as active as Samuel, but Zaccheaus can stretch the field and knows new head coach Dan Quinn from their time with the Atlanta Falcons.

Dotson is the most likely candidate to do what Samuel did in a Commanders’ uniform. There were glimpses of Dotson’s talent for exploiting coverage from the slot during his prolific rookie season in 2022, particularly this rep for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions, highlighted by film analyst Mark Bullock.

Dotson should get more looks inside in Kingsbury’s scheme. What’s less clear is if the Commanders will replace Samuel’s rushing threat.

He was surprisingly rarely turned loose as a runner after reuniting with former Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner in 2021. Yet, Samuel is a big-play threat on the ground, something Kingsbury had with the Arizona Cardinals, thanks to Rondale Moore.

Ultimately, replacing all of the things Samuel did will take a committee approach, with McLaurin leading the way.

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