Back when the Washington Commanders signed Curtis Samuel in 2021, it was like getting the keys to a new Ferrari. The hope was that his versatility, paired with the young talent that was already part of the offense, would add more levels to the unit.
The reality was that the Ferrari spent a lot of time in the garage, as injuries kept Samuel off the field for most of the season. But with an offseason of rest and recovery, Samuel is starting to rev up again.
Samuel looked more like the version of himself that Washington expected to get during OTAs and minicamp. His routes have been crisp, and he looks more confident in his body now that his groin injury is behind him.
That performance has Carson Wentz psyched to work with the dynamic wide receiver.
"He's explosive," Wentz told Julie Donaldson. "When you see the ball in his hands and how quickly he's making a guy miss or he's getting down the field, it's impressive."
While he did miss a handful of days during the offseason workout program, Samuel was on the field for most of the Commanders' practices and looked strong doing it. He was placed in a variety of roles during 11-on-11 drills, and he made cuts and breaks with ease.
That's what many expected Samuel would bring in 2021. His scrimmage yards had improved every season since the Carolina Panthers drafted him in the second round of the 2017 draft. Prior to him rejoining Ron Rivera in Washington, he was coming off a career-high of 1,071 total yards in 2020.
"I know who Curtis is," he said. "We drafted him in Carolina and saw the success he had. So, we believe his skill fits what we want to do. We believe it fits very well."
Samuel didn't come close to those numbers last season because of injury, but it's not as if the talent he flaunted in the previous four years just disappeared. Wentz has seen it, and it's a unique skill set.
"I've only played with a handful of guys who have that kind of quick twitch ability that he has," Wentz said. "It's been fun to build that chemistry and see what he does well."
What Samuel does well is make plays with the ball in his hands. He was in the Top 3 in scrimmage yards for the Panthers in three of his four seasons. His biggest plays have come as a receiver; he caught 77% of his deep targets in 2020, which was the best among all receivers that year.
But Samuel has been used as a running back, too, as he has 489 yards on the ground in his career. Samuel doesn't care where he's lined up, though. As long as he's making plays, he'll be happy.
"Whatever role I gotta play, no matter if it's a receiver, running the ball, I'm down for whatever."
That should make Wentz happy as well.
"When you see him with the ball in his hands, he's electric."
The decision to hold Samuel out of the occasional practice near the end of the offseason workout program was made "out of an abundance of caution" from Rivera and his staff. The head coach said Samuel has had a strong camp, and there was no reason to push him.
That's certain to cause some anxiety from Washington fans, but it's clear that Samuel has made progress in his recovery since the season ended in January. In fairness, though, we'll have to wait until training camp to see how he performs when contact is allowed.
It sounds like Wentz can't wait for that day to come.
"I've seen it from afar over his career already," Wentz said, "but seeing it up close, in person is pretty cool."