The Washington Football Team was hunting for a dual returner when it found DeAndre Carter this past offseason. That's the role he filled well in training camp, but once the coaches saw what he could do in the slot with the ball in his hands, his other skills started to intrigue them.
Now that he has a more expanded role in the offense, he's grabbing everyone's attention.
With Cam Sims and Dyami Brown both out against the New Orleans Saints, Carter was elevated to the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 29, 2019. He had appeared in 24 snaps over the course of the previous four games. He more than doubled that with 58 against the Saints, and his 62 yards on four receptions were the second-most of his four-year career.
To his coaches and teammates, he's proof that being prepared to take advantage of opportunities does pay off.
"We all have a lot of confidence in him," quarterback Taylor Heinicke said of Carter. "Like when you see him in the huddle, he's got those confident eyes. He's ready to go and you know he's going to do the right thing."
Carter's contributions actually go back to Washington's Week 4 battle against the Atlanta Falcons, when Sims and Brown first went down and Curtis Samuel was playing on a snap limit. With Washington facing a 30-28 deficit with just 1:35 second left, it needed an explosive play to move downfield, and Carter supplied that jolt with a 24-yard completion in the middle of the field.
Scott Turner admitted he didn't know anything about Carter when Washington signed him. He had no idea if Carter had ever run that particular route before, but he does know that Carter is "a very serious professional" who is always prepared for his moment.
"I've been impressed with him since the day he got here and the way he works," Turner said ahead of the Saints game. "He'll get ready to play more this next game."
And Carter certainly was ready in Week 5. Three of his four catches resulted in gains of at least 10 yards, and he also had an 11-yard carry in the third quarter. When Washington elected to try a fourth-and-14 conversion in the fourth quarter, it called on Carter again to provide a chunk play.
Once again, Carter was open and hauled in a 26-yard grab. Four plays later, Washington scored to cut the Saints' lead down to five points. Carter still has room to grow, Ron Rivera said Wednesday, but his recent emergence has given Washington yet another weapon to throw at defenses.
"A guy that's dynamic with the ball in his hands," Rivera said, "you just can't focus all your energies on one guy right now and that's what he's helping us with."
Carter's story of perseverance is a relatable one for many of his teammates. He was released by seven teams before finding a home with Washington. He rarely got to show what he could do outside of a special teams role during that span, and yet he has a confidence that makes his teammates comfortable trusting him to make plays.
With Sims still battling injuries and Brown limited on Wednesday and Thursday, it looks like Carter could have another opportunity to prove himself against the Kansas City Chiefs. Players like Terry McLaurin are excited to see what he does with it.
"That's what this league is all about, and he deserves it," McLaurin said. "It's really cool when you see a guy have success."