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Gary Clark predicts bright future for Terry McLaurin

It's a fact that Terry McLaurin has established himself as one of the better receivers the Washington Commanders have had in their 90-year history.

Here are the highlights of McLaurin has already accomplished: he's 15th in career receiving yards for the franchise (he's guaranteed to move up that list in 2022); his 222 receptions are the most through three seasons in Washington; and last season, he became the first Washington receiver to reach 1,000 receiving yards in consecutive seasons since WR Henry Ellard did so from 1994-96.

The most impressive part about all of that: he's only 26 and entering his fourth season, and former Washington receiver Gary Clark sees a lot more of that success in McLaurin's future.

"The quality of man this person is, is something that's been missing from this formula for a while," Clark said. "I'm glad to see that we have it now."

Clark, a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion who's third on Washington's all-time receiving list, isn't sure why McLaurin hasn't gotten more attention in the past three seasons. He sees McLaurin as one of the best receivers playing today, and the numbers back that up.

McLaurin is one of 35 players in NFL history to ever record 3,000-plus receiving yards within his first three seasons; he's one of three NFC wide receivers (Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson) with at least 75 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons; and he's one of 10 NFL receivers to have at least 220 receptions, 3,000 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns since 2019.

If Clark had to guess, McLaurin's lack of national attention stems from him letting his performance on the field do all the talking. That reminds him of another great Washington receiver: Hall of Famer Art Monk.

"He lets his play do the action," Clark said. "That's why he hasn't been voted to Pro Bowls yet. But that'll come over time."

McLaurin has certainly cultivated the acumen, reputation and production that warranted a multi-year contract. It was a milestone in McLaurin's life -- one that he's been working towards since joining the NFL as a third-round pick.

McLaurin has been the first to say that his real work begins now. So, what is next for the receiver? To Clark, it's time for McLaurin to get the one thing that has escaped his grasp so far.

"Playoffs, playoff wins, playoff championships," Clark said.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at Terry McLaurin signing his extension with the Washington Commanders. (Joe Noyes/Washington Commanders)

While he does have a team-first mentality, it's been clear that McLaurin has done his part to help his team get into the postseason. He's been the team's leading receiver the past three seasons, averaging 1,030 yards in that span, and accounted for 16 touchdowns.

That consistency is what gives Clark so much confidence in McLaurin's skill set. He's been so solid over the years that there isn't much for Clark to critique. The way Clark sees it, the other pieces around McLaurin need to come into play.

"You always need all those different components," Clark said. "I need my defense to play great. I need my offense to play great. I need my offensive line to block for my quarterback … What I can tell you is that his piece of the puzzle is going to be in place."

The good news is that McLaurin is more focused on elevating his teammates rather than setting personal goals, and after talking with McLaurin when he came to sign his extension, it's clear to Clark that McLaurin has the leadership and attitude to do that.

"I understand that he can bring that performance out of his teammates," Clark said. "And that's important to get performances...because sometimes coaches just can't get because they're not a player."

And there's plenty of evidence that McLaurin has been providing those services for some time now. Just look at all the quarterbacks McLaurin has caught passes from.

"My main priority and just my mindset with each quarterback is try to put my best foot forward and make them look good in any way, shape or form I can," McLaurin said. "I've never really tried to focus on how many I've had and although you want to try to get a connection with a guy and have some longevity. I've had fun and I've learned from all the quarterbacks I've had up until this point."

There are high expectations for Washington heading into Year 3 of Ron Rivera’s tenure. Much of that hinges on McLaurin's success, and Rivera views him as an important piece of the offense regardless of whether he gets 1,000 yards for the third straight season.

Clark is confident that he'll hit that mark again, though.

"He's gonna have...three receivers that are gonna be put out there," Clark said. “[Jahan Dotson] is gonna take some pressure off of him. When pressure gets divided among three, you can't double team everybody."

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