Commanders’ wide receivers evoking memories of the ‘Posse’

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Still sweating from the thrill of victory Monday night, Washington Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin began his postgame press conference in Philadelphia by coyly acknowledging a Hall of Famer.

“First off, kudos to Art Monk,” he said with a smile. “I’ve heard some things, but kudos to Art Monk. … Just this love this guy, man.

It took a few moments before his audience realized the reference was a jab at Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, who wore a No. 82 Mike Quick jersey at FedEx Field in Week 3 and said that he would “take Mike Quick over Art Monk any day.”

“Thanks to Art Monk,” McLaurin continued, subtly turning the inside joke into an off-the-cuff tribute. “I just love him and I appreciate him for what he’s done in the league, but also for the way he’s mentored our receiving group and the way he’s spent his time. Gary Clark, too – all those guys. They really set the tone, and it really compels our receiving group to come and play at a high level because we know they set a standard.

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A few weeks earlier, “The Posse” – Washington’s former receiving trio of Monk, Clark and Ricky Sanders – met the team’s current escapees and shared old stories and advice at a dinner party. steak at DC Prime in Northern Virginia. Most of the franchise’s current players were born more than a decade after the Posse helped Washington win two Super Bowls, but at dinner that night, former and current players shared a belief and state of mind. spirit in their style of play.

“They were all brothers,” McLaurin said. “Ricky, Art and Gary – they were all happy for each other, but they all wanted to be the guy. I think a lot of people don’t necessarily want to think of it like that, but I think our band and everyone believe they can be the best guy.

But a comment from The Posse surprised and humbled Washington’s current wide receivers.

“One thing they said…is that this group of receivers that we have, that’s probably the closest they’ve seen since leaving a group of guys who would be close to anything. they were,” McLaurin added. “You hear that from Hall of Famers and guys who [are at the top of] the book of records is really a lesson in humility.

This season, with a group that features McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and rookie Jahan Dotson – who have combined for 1,521 yards and nine touchdowns – Washington’s receiving body has become a focal point, even amid the turnover of the quarter. -back and offensive inconsistency. Their varied skill sets challenged defenses tasked with respecting them all — and their backups — as well as Washington’s versatile backs.

And their depth gave offensive coordinator Scott Turner several options. Even if the commanders succeed in their running game, the receivers make it possible, with big catches in the clutch moments.

Although their playing has yet to approach The Posse’s achievements, their potential has intrigued the former trio.

“They have to make the passing game fearless, so when people see these guys come out, they’ve been thinking about it all week. Just imagine if a defensive back had to cover this guy one-on-one,” Clark said, pointing to Monk standing next to him at a commanders practice in late October. “He dreamed about it all week before he played against Art Monk. Same thing with Ricky Sanders. And Super XXII guys, this DB still has scary nightmares about what Ricky did to him in a quarterback. Imagine if Joe [Gibbs] had let us throw away the whole game.

For years, Washington receivers lacked the depth (and health) to make a meaningful impact. Defenses focused on McLaurin, often doubling him in coverage. This year, with multiple threats on the perimeter, McLaurin said he’s noticed more defenses using security aid on top to try to prevent chunk plays by commanders. This often opens up the midfield for short passes to Samuel that he can extend or cross roads by other wide ones.

Yet defenses have also allocated more resources to try and stop Samuel, a sneaky receiver Washington uses in run-and-pass plays. He has missed most of the 2021 season with groin and hamstring injuries, but has returned to full health in the offseason and has been a weapon in many areas so far.

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Through Week 10, Washington is one of four teams — along with Seattle, San Francisco and Miami — to have multiple receivers representing at least 20% of team targets McLaurin and Samuel, according to TruMedia Sports.

“His skill set has kind of always been around the line of scrimmage,” Washington receivers coach Drew Terrell said of Samuel. “He was a running back in his past, was kind of a gimmick-type receiver in his past. He’s fully capable of making plays on the court and, and stepping down the court if that’s what’s prescribed that week. There is no limit to his abilities as a catcher and pass catcher. »

McLaurin has already passed Clark for the most catches by a Washington receiver in four seasons and also needs 323 yards to pass him in that category. After signing a three-year extension worth around $71 million, McLaurin continued to elevate his game.

“I say it pretty much every week: you never know how the game is going to go,” McLaurin said. “Obviously we were very busy last week, but at some point in the game every week a receiver in our room is going to make a play to change the game, win the game, change the momentum and I try to call back to guys that every week.

Terrell emphasized the same, telling his receivers that they should dictate to defenses their routes, releases and various concepts and not just react to opponents’ coverage. It gives more control on offense, but few teams have the depth of Washington playmakers.

In the season-opening win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Samuel set the tone with a first-quarter touchdown, triggering two more catches in the end zone by Dotson and a 49-yard deep score by McLaurin.

Against the Green Bay Packers in Week 7 – the game The Posse attended – McLaurin sealed the victory with a 37-yard touchdown in the third quarter and a 12-yard critical hold on a third-and-9 play late in the game. regulation.

McLaurin played Indianapolis again, landing a 33-yard catch in the closing seconds to set up the winning score. Cam Sims’ 21-yard catch earlier in practice made that possible.

And in Washington’s upset win over the Eagles, McLaurin racked up 128 receiving yards in a game-heavy game plan, and Dyami Brown – the 2021 third-round pick who busted for two touchdowns against the Titans earlier in the game. ‘year – picked up 15 yards while diving for a low pass on a dig route to set up Washington’s basket just before halftime.

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The hold was yet another reminder of the threat Washington’s deep receiving corps can pose.

“What kind of issues? Not bad. Multiple,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said on a conference call this week. “We’re trying to figure that out. You know, normally you’re dealing with a receiver and… what he brings – excellent speed, ability to run, quickness, ability to play.

Washington’s talent as a wide receiver has been a boon to his game planning. But the band’s bond off the pitch has fueled greater success.

“I think a lot of times since I’ve been here Washington is maybe seen as an easy W,” McLaurin said. “It takes a while to change that narrative, but I think for us, if we stack wins like this together and keep leaning on each other, then we have a chance to really be something special. . I believe him.

“Those guys, I’m excited to have the offense built around them,” Clark said. “A lot of people want to build offense around the running game, and sometimes you do that when the running backs are the best on the team.”

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