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Terry McLaurin believes Redskins WRs Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon poised for breakout second years

Terry McLaurin believes Redskins WRs Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon poised for breakout second years

Entering the 2019 season, the Redskins arguably had the worst wide receiving corps in the entire NFL. However, it didn't take long for the Burgundy and Gold to realize they had a star in the making.

Terry McLaurin had a fantastic NFL debut in Week 1 last season, catching five passes for 125 yards (which could have been over 200 had Case Keenum been a tad more accurate on a few throws) and one touchdown in Washington's 32-27 loss to the Eagles. The third-round pick parlayed his incredible Week 1 performance into one of the best seasons by a rookie pass-catcher in franchise history, finishing the 2019 campaign with 58 receptions for 919 yards and seven touchdowns.

McLaurin enters the 2020 season as a budding star; there's no question about it. But outside of him, there are plenty of questions surrounding the team's receiving corps as to who will step and produce as the No. 2 wideout.

While those questions aren't going away anytime soon, McLaurin is confident in the team's pass-catching group. In a recent Zoom call with local media, McLaurin said he believes that two of his fellow second-year receivers -- Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon -- have the chance to make tremendous strides in 2020.

"Steven and Kelvin look great," McLaurin said. "I can clearly see the improvement that they’ve made in their games and I’m just excited to be a part of that group."

Although McLaurin had the best rookie season of the three, both Sims and Harmon showed plenty of potential towards the end of the season, particularly once then-rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins was named the starter.


As a way to build on the chemistry Haskins and the three then-rookie wideouts started to form at the end of 2019, the four of them planned to train in Florida this offseason and rent an Airbnb together. But then the coronavirus pandemic spread across the United States in rapid fashion in mid-March, putting an end to those plans quickly.

The pandemic has prevented the Redskins from holding in-person offseason activities, too, but McLaurin, Sims, and Harmon have all still been able to train with Haskins on their own.

When asked about Sims, McLaurin said he was impressed by the improvements the speedy wideout has made with his footwork this offseason.

"With Steven Sims, I feel like he’s probably made one of the biggest jumps to me personally because of how clean his feet are," McLaurin said. "He’s always been fast, he’s always been quick, but sometimes he possibly would slip...but you could really tell his feet are so clean and the way he’s running his route his stems looks the same. I’m really excited to see him flourish in an offense that can showcase his versatility inside or out."

During the final four games of the season, Sims totaled 20 receptions for 230 yards and four touchdowns. Sims, an undrafted player from Kansas, proved to be a home run threat every time he touched the ball, whether that be as a receiver, rusher, or even as a returner.


While Harmon's numbers were not as pretty as Sims', the N.C. State product finished with three or more receptions in five of the Redskins final seven games last season.

"Kelvin is moving really well. He has a great burst in the way he’s running his routes," McLaurin said. "His feet are clean, he’s always had really good hands. When we’re connecting on deep balls, usually everybody kind of expects me being the fast guy I’m going to hit on them all and things like that, but Kelvin’s timing has been great and he and Dwayne are really building that chemistry."

Haskins spoke to reporters last week, too, and had nothing but great things to say about the three wideouts.

"I mean, going through the young guys, Kelvin is in great shape, he’s running like I’ve never seen him before," Haskins said. "Steven looks great. I really don’t even worry about them being in shape it’s more so just the communication."

And for McLaurin?

"It’s the best I’ve seen Terry and I’ve known Terry since I was a freshman in college," Haskins said. "So, everybody’s putting in that work and it’s showing."

Although he's by far the most proven of the three, McLaurin would not describe himself as the "alpha" of the receiving group. However, he explained that during these workouts, he tries to set an example for the other receivers.

"I don’t really try to get into being the alpha per se, but I know I try to set a good pace to our workouts and things like that," McLaurin said. "[I] try to go first when we’re running routes, try to run the routes right, try to set the right example for the guys that we’re throwing with and just try to make it look good. Trying to make Dwayne feel as comfortable as possible is my main objective."

While McLaurin played almost entirely on the outside in 2020, he explained that he, along with the other wideouts, has the versatility to line up from multiple different positions in new offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense.

"I’ve been trying to learn it all conceptually and I feel like that gives our team versatility," McLaurin said on lining up at three wide receiver positions. "I feel like it gives me versatility and it’s something that I feel I can handle mentally just learning conceptually this new offense."

The expectations of Washington's wide receiving corps are not high outside of Redskins Park. But between the improvements he's seen from his teammates and with Turner's offensive system in place, McLaurin is confident that the group will be able to deliver in 2020.

"The receivers that we have, not just including me, Steven and Kelvin, but with the other receivers that we have, I feel like this could be a very receiver-friendly offense," McLaurin said. "We just got to make sure that we’re keyed into what we need to be doing on every play."

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Ron Rivera might not say it outright but it sounds like Washington is Dwayne Haskins' team

Ron Rivera might not say it outright but it sounds like Washington is Dwayne Haskins' team

Ron Rivera refuses to name Dwayne Haskins the starting quarterback for the Washington Football Team, but listening to the coach's comments about the second-year passer, it sure sounds like it's Haskins job. 

"He’s done a great job of studying, preparing and getting himself ready for this. He’s been great," Rivera said Tuesday morning. "He’s been on the field, doing the things we’ve asked of him. He’s done the extra stuff that he and I talked about in the offseason. He’s done the things that, I think, puts him right there where he needs to be at this junction of where we are in our training, having only been able to do zoom and now only having four days of work on the field."

Much has been made about veteran QB Alex Smith's return from injury. 

Smith's story has been incredible, working his way back from a compound fracture in his leg and 17 surgeries as his body was ravaged by infection. Now Smith is able to work out with trainers at the Washington practice facilities for multiple days without setbacks. It's a remarkable story. 

But there are still major hurdles for Smith to get back on the field, not the least of which is clearing a football physical from the Washington doctors.

"For him, it’s really just a matter of, can he do the movements he needs to do?" Rivera said. "Can he protect himself when he’s on the field more so than anything else?"


There's another important element to point out and that's the advantage - real or perceived - that Kyle Allen has over Haskins.

Allen started nine games for Rivera and new Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner last season in Carolina, and found some success. The Panthers won Allen's first four starts, and in those games, he threw no interceptions. Conversely, Carolina lost the last six games Allen started and he threw 11 picks in those contests. 


Earlier this offseason Rivera suggested that Allen could have a "leg up" on Haskins based on knowledge of Turner's system. Asked on Tuesday if Haskins still trailed in that department, Rivera did not seem concerned. 

"I don’t think Dwayne is very far behind, I really don’t."

Rivera wants open competition across his football team. No player gets named starter, rather that player earns the job. Sure sounds like Haskins is doing just that when it comes to the starting quarterback spot. 

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With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

Positive reports about Alex Smith's early training camp performance came out over the weekend, and on a Tuesday morning Zoom call with the media, Ron Rivera echoed those reviews.

"He's looked good, he really has," the head coach said. "I'll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see how far along he is. It's been exciting to watch his progression."

According to Rivera, Smith has been working off to the side with Washington Football Team trainers at the Ashburn facility and is mirroring what Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen are doing, too. Coordinator Scott Turner and QBs coach Ken Zampese are apparently involving Smith as much as they can, and Smith is looking "very fluid" so far.

"It's a tribute to who he is, it's a tribute to his trainers and his doctors who have helped him get where he is today," Rivera said.

That all, of course, is wildly encouraging. The fact that the 36-year-old is in a place where he can check off those boxes and do those activities is astounding. That can't be pointed out enough, either.


Yet it's also fair to note just how different mimicking a starting signal caller and actually serving as the starting signal caller are. So, is there any real chance of Smith transitioning from that first phase to the second before the season? 

With what he's seen from the veteran so far, Rivera certainly believes there is.

"I can envision it," he said. "The big thing is if he can do the things that we need him to do, that he needs to do to help himself on the football field, he'll be part of the conversation most definitely. He did some really good things last week. He went through all four workout days, had no residual effect the next morning, which is always important because the next day usually tells.

"We'll see how he is this week and we'll go from there."

As Smith continues to rehab and try to make his way off PUP, the challenges are solely physical. Rivera is not worried at all about the veteran having to adjust to a new scheme or dealing with any other mental task; instead, the primary concern is ensuring that Smith can handle the contact that'll come if he makes it back into live action.

"I believe he already knows probably 75-percent of our playbook," Rivera said. "So for him, it's really just a matter of can he do the movements he needs to do? Can he protect himself when he's on the field?"

It feels like every time Smith is brought up, he's taken another step. The next one, however — going from the PUP list to the huddle — is particularly daunting.

But at this point, it's gotten pretty difficult to imagine anything being particularly daunting for Alex Smith. So don't be that floored if he makes it happen. Rivera clearly won't be.