Commanders’ skill players: Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson and question marks

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ASHBURN, Va. – Washington Commanders have exciting opportunities among their skill position players. They have potential. But they also have insecurity with that group due to injuries.

They may have the necessary players to win. They should add more this offseason just in case.

Commanders coach Ron Rivera has so far spent the offseason explaining why the team will aggressively pursue a quarterback. And the top factor, he said, stems from confidence in the guard: the commanders believe the defense will be good by 2022, the offensive line has depth, and the backward Antonio Gibson finished strong and continues to improve.

And they have potential at the recipient.

“It’s a position we like,” Rivera said. “It’s a good position.”

The anchor is Terry McLaurin, who is coming off his second 1,000-yard season in his first three years. He and Gibson are surrounded by talented players who have shown glimpses of greatness but have struggled to stay on the field in recent seasons.

Is that enough to win NFC East? ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen says the answer will be determined by their starting quarterback. However, he says that even if Washington gets a mid-level starter like Jimmy Garoppolo, “I believe it’s enough to compete in that division, and that’s all you can ask for.”

In particular, four players have shown the ability to complement McLaurin and Gibson, giving the team an explosive attack. But their injury history could force Washington to add more competition.

Tight-end Logan Thomas: He has been one of Washington’s best free agents for a while, a low-level pickup in 2020 that blossomed into a solid starter. In two seasons – he has missed 10 games this year due to injury – he has caught 90 passes, nine for touchdowns. For the past two seasons, he has been one of the most productive tight-ends in the red zone, a feature of his size (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) and route running. He is number three among close ends in the red zone, having received yards for the past two years combined, despite having played at least 10 fewer games than those ahead of him. And he is a friendly target for the Washington quarterbacks, who completed 68 percent of their throws for him. Only Dwayne Haskins was below 70 percent.

However, Thomas tore his ACL on December 5 and there is no guarantee that he is ready for the start of the season. If he’s back in September and ready to go? Thomas is a valuable part of the attack.

Recipient Curtis Samuel: Washington envisioned that he lined up wide, in the castle and in the backfield. Samuel, a college running back, averaged 11.05 yards per carry. catch in 2020 with Carolina. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner said he wanted to use Samuel as a goal on the pitch – when he was healthy. And the last two words defined Samuel’s 2021 season. He was never healthy and played only five games and got six passes. There are results that suggest Samuel will help Washington, but to what extent? Will the soft tissue injuries – first his groin and then his buttocks – flare up this season? There is reason for optimism about Samuel, but we are also crossing our fingers. His presence would reduce the pressure on McLaurin.

“The key here is to have Samuel healthy,” Bowen said. “There is no doubt about the versatility and effect he can bring. He is your stretching midfielder and a dynamic player with the ball in his hands.”

At the end of the season, Samuel said: “I’m mentally focused and locked in and really ready to go. I have not felt that way for a really long time. I will put so much effort into trying to put myself and the team in the best position next year. to win matches. “

Running back JD McKissic: Like Thomas, he was a great signing in 2020, but he handled injuries last season. I have played in parts of 11 games, but he has caught 47 passes in two years with Washington. His versatility, due to his days as a college graduate, allows Washington to use him on a variety of routes.

He comes after a neck injury and is a waiting free agent. Washington wants to sign him again and is missing someone else like him on the list.

“He’s an important part of what they do,” Bowen said.

Recipient Dyami Brown: He was drafted in the third round last year because of his speed (4.45 seconds in the 40-yard line). But Brown never developed as a deep target for Washington. I finished his rookie season with 12 catches on 165 yards and no touchdowns.

He was slowed down by a knee injury in early October, but still managed to play 15 games. He showed improvement late, flashing in weeks 16-17 with three catches for a combined 78 yards – showing his downfield speed as well as his ability to go over the middle. And they liked how he played as a shooter in cover, became more physical and competitive and used his hands to get free – qualities that they hope will translate to the receiver.

“Most of [my improvement] came towards the end of the season. That’s when I really got a feel for the game and understood what was going on around me, “Brown said.” My technique was complete and I was able to correct it along the way. “

Bowen said Brown “should be their exterior vertical stretch measure.”

“We know what [McLaurin] can do He is a top-level route runner and high-volume target, but they need complementary pieces around him. If everyone is healthy and on the right track, they have enough talent. The question goes back to: Who throws them the ball?

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