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Curtis Samuel knew what the analysts were saying about Terry McLaurin when his former Ohio State teammate entered the NFL Draft. Most labeled him as someone who would be more of a special teams player to start his career.
The results are in, and that take was incorrect. Samuel isn't surprised by his teammate's recent success, though.
"I said, 'Listen, he didn't get a lot of targets in college," Samuel said after the Washington Football Team's 34-30 victory against the Atlanta Falcons, "but trust me, Terry is gonna be a special talent."
The pundits should have heeded Samuel's predictions, because McLaurin has lived up to it yet again with six receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns. It helped elevate him all the way to seventh in receiving yards through four games. There's no other way to say it: McLaurin is balling out, and the way he sliced through the Falcons' defense backs it up.
"He's a very special player," Samuel said. "He's playing really high right now."
McLaurin has been an important piece to Washington's offense all year -- he's finished with at least 60 yards in all four contests -- but after amassing 107 yards on 14 targets against the New York Giants, the latter number was cut in half with only seven targets.
Against the Falcons, McLaurin's usage was back in double digits with 13 targets, and it paid off. He had the fourth-best performance in Week 4 by a receiver. The only players better were Tyreek Hill, Deebo Samuel and Darnell Mooney.
"He's dynamic, he's a playmaker, so it's a lot of fun watching him run routes and catch the ball," Taylor Heinicke said of McLaurin after Washington's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
McLaurin got to flaunt a lot of that playmaking ability in Atlanta. Prior to his first touchdown of the day, he got Washington into Falcons territory with a 21-yard grab in the middle of three defenders.
Three plays later, McLaurin's 33-yard score got Washington on the scoreboard.
"Some of the ones that he's made over the first couple of games were pretty unbelievable," said offensive coordinator Scott Turner. "I think he's playing really well, but I think more than anything, it's just his physical strength and the competitiveness."
McLaurin, who led the NFL with seven contested catches heading into Week 4, put that strength to good use later in the game, when Washington was down, 30-22. As Heinicke was scrambling to keep the play alive, Mclaurin was fighting coverage in the back of the end zone. Heinicke launched a rainbow pass in McLaurin's direction, trusting that he would win his matchup.
McLaurin got free of the defender with just enough time to make the grab and close the Falcons' lead down to two points.
"[The defensive back] was on me, but at the end of the day you have to be able to fight through contact," McLaurin said. "I just knew Taylor was going to give me a chance."
McLaurin's success is on track for what Washington expects from the third-year receiver. He put up similar numbers during the first four games of the 2020, when he officially took on the moniker of being a No. 1 wideout. According to ESPN, he's on pace for 1,416 yards on 100 receptions.
No one is overlooking McLaurin anymore. He's a problem that defensive coordinators are still trying to solve. It hasn't stopped him from putting up numbers, and Samuel believes there is still room for McLaurin to grow.
"I'm excited for him," Samuel said. "He's just gonna keep on going."