Wide receivers coach Drew Terrell, who the Washington Football Team officially promoted last week, will be solely in charge of a position group for the first time in his career, but he is taking on the new role with a trove of knowledge about his young players.
He learned that despite dealing with an unconventional offseason, a completely new offense and a worldwide pandemic, Washington's receivers were a hard-working bunch. They still produced under those circumstances, too, showing flashes of talent throughout a season that included four different starting quarterbacks.
The tools are there to build a solid unit, but it is also apparent that there is plenty of room for growth. It will be Terrell's job to make sure that happens.
"The arrow has to keep going up for them," Terrell said. "I really appreciated the way they worked, and that's what is going to help them continue to be better players. Obviously, we've got to take the next step to become a better and more complete room."
Determining a position group's potential is a tough question for coaches to answer. Success is always the goal, but that does not necessarily mean Terrell is setting benchmarks in terms of yards or touchdowns. Instead, the natural next step for Washington's receivers is consistent improvement as they enter their second season in the scheme.
Take Terry McLaurin for example. As Terrell said, his production spoke for itself. He caught nearly 65% of his targets for 1,118 yards -- briefly leading the league in receiving after Washington's win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving -- and proved he could handle the responsibility of being a No. 1 receiver.
But Terrell also believes consistency is what separates players in the NFL. The number of receivers who can put up numbers similar to McLaurin is scarce, so the biggest priority for Terrell is making sure McLaurin's offseason training habits and preparation are aligned with McLaurin's goals.
"Getting your second 1,000-yard season is harder than getting your first," Terrell said. "Terry's a smart kid. He's motivated, he loves football, so you know he's going to go about it the right way. ...He's got to open his mind to new and improved ways to get better that are going to make him a better player and just continue to attack them. I know he will. He's wired the right way."
Still, another productive season for McLaurin would only be a by-product of what Terrell judges for success. When he and former wide receivers coach Jim Hostler, who is now Washington's senior offensive assistant, evaluated the position's season, they asked themselves questions like how did the players look running their routes once the ball was snapped? How did they handle press coverage? Were there fewer missed assignments in Washington's Wild Card game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers compared to Week 1?
Terrell looks at where the group ranks among others across the league at the end of the season, but at a certain point, he said, those statistics are out of their control. If he can turn on the game film and see his players not missing assignments, making contested catches and scoring touchdowns, that is how he knows Washington's receivers are heading in the right direction.
In other words, it comes down to them knowing their roles and doing their jobs.
"I think if we, as a room, control our controllables, make the plays we're supposed to make, don't have any missed assignments, do our job on a daily basis, that's as much as any coach can ask for. That's really what I'm looking for and what I know the rest of our offensive staff is looking for."
If Washington's receivers can handle that, more opportunities to score touchdowns and have 100-yard performances will follow. And for what it is worth, they have shown they can take advantage of those chances when presented to them.
Cam Sims might be the biggest example of that; he had a career season of 32 catches for 477 yards and a touchdown -- he had just 27 yards the previous two years -- and because he showed he could handle his responsibilities, Terrell said the entire group trusted him.
There were also players like Isaiah Wright and Steven Sims Jr., both of whom displayed those characteristics as well. And the more comfortable they get in the system, the more consistent they will become.
"Just showing that they can do it every day and that they can be dependable and we don't have any questions about if they're going to be in the right spot, if they're going to make the play when it comes to them, if they're going to be available on Sunday," Terrell said. "I think all those guys...are learning this process of what it takes to be a pro, what it takes to be available, what it takes to be consistent every week. I think they'll only get better."
Given how Washington's receivers learned the offense last offseason, Terrell said he and Hostler were surprised at how well they took information from the virtual meetings and applied it on the field. It showed the group possessed promise heading into Year 2 in the system.
But in order for them to turn that promise into more success, they will need to stick to the standard they set for themselves in 2020.
"I hope that room is getting the majority of the balls," Terrell said. "But they've got to go out and prove that. They've got to go out and show up every day and practice so that the quarterbacks and so that [offensive coordinator] Scott Turner, [Hostler] and [head coach Ron Rivera] can...get those guys the ball."