McLaurin opens up on why he's so good when he's, well, not open


There's a part of Terry McLaurin's game that he's always grinding on and that's shifting the 50-50 balls that come his way each week more into his favor.

According to the numbers, he's doing that better than anyone in the NFL this year.

Per Pro Football Focus, nearly 50% of McLaurin's receptions in 2021 — a crazy 19 out of 40 — have come in contested situations. The next-closest player to Washington's wideout has made eight such catches, not even half of what he's pulled in.

When discussing his success in that specific area of his craft on Thursday, McLaurin relented that when he was at Ohio State, thriving when guarded tightly was one of his "biggest weaknesses." Since he was able to get separation so easily in college, he didn't have to battle for the ball much, and in the instances he did have to, he wasn't as productive as he would've preferred to be.

Clearly, McLaurin's fixed that hole since joining the Burgundy and Gold, and he initially identified a pretty basic reason behind his growth.

"I think it's my confidence, really," he told reporters.

If McLaurin sees a direct link between being more sure of himself and being more dominant against close coverage, then there's no reason to doubt him.

However, something else could be equally as important as that factor: He's simply getting a ton of chances to go up and get it, and the trust his quarterbacks consistently show in him has routinely paid off in positive gains.


While some graphs related to the NFL can be overly complicated, the following chart illustrates what it's trying to illustrate quite easily:

Now, here's the best part for Washington supporters: McLaurin isn't even fully satisfied with his level of output in traffic, despite how undeniably impressive he's been for the franchise through seven games.

"There's been some situations this season where I wish I did a better job attacking the ball with my hands," he said.

On a route here and there, it appears like McLaurin still falls into the habit of trying to make "body catches," instead of plucking passes out of the air. In those instances, that allows the defensive backs who are matched up on him to get involved, too, and interfere with potential completions. 

Even McLaurin's most recent end zone trip in Green Bay was an example of him letting the pass travel as opposed to possessing it as soon as possible. Things just happened to work out on that particular touchdown.

When asked which star around the league is better than anyone else at hands catching, McLaurin identified DeAndre Hopkins as the gold standard.

"He's one of the top, if not the top, guys," McLaurin said. "That's the type of receiver I want to be at some point."

McLaurin's certainly on his way to Hopkins' tier, and though he'd definitely appreciate some easier targets — who wouldn't? — he also understands the impact his highlights can have on Washington's offense overall.

"Those are the types of plays that extend drives, especially when you get in the red zone," he said. "Those are important, and when you come down with those types of balls, it gives everyone confidence."

And as the stats reveal, no one's coming down with them like McLaurin is right now for Washington.