Much has been made from an outside perspective about the Washington Commanders' switch from Taylor Heinicke to Carson Wentz with two games left in the season, but for players like Terry McLaurin and the rest of the locker room, they do not see it as big a deal.
"I don't think anything really changes for us, receivers wise," McLaurin said in his weekly scrum with reporters. "I can't speak for the O-Line of the running backs, but at least we have a familiarity with Carson and what he brings to the table."
There is no hiding the fact that a playoff contender making a switch at quarterback at such a critical point in the season is a unique scenario. Wentz, who prior to appearing in relief for Heinicke against the San Francisco 49ers had not played since Week 6, will need to get back up to speed with a pair of must-win games coming up, the next being a matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
That decision might raise some questions among media members, but none of that is coming from the roster. The players remain confident in Wentz and what he can add to the offense.
"We have his back and we're able to support him, and he can trust our group to come down with the tough plays to try and help win this game," McLaurin said.
Wentz's first offensive drive since Oct. 13 was not perfect -- his first pass attempt flew over the head of Logan Thomas -- but he did finish the 11-play drive completing seven of his 10 pass attempts, including a 20-yard touchdown toss to Curtis Samuel.
What was most encouraging about his two possessions, though, was his ability to get the ball out quickly and how he targeted four different pass-catchers on the touchdown drive. McLaurin said Wentz has always had a grasp of the offense, but he did praise the signal-caller for coming in and executing the plays that were called.
And the way he distributed the ball will be needed if Washington hopes to keep its playoff hopes alive.
"That's going to be necessary going forward," McLaurin said.
The Washington Commanders took the practice field to begin prepping for a crucial Week 17 home matchup against the Cleveland Brown. Here are the top photos from Wednesday afternoon. Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders
Washington has improved at staying on the field in Wentz's absence. With help from Brian Robinson’s weekly improvements, the Commanders lead the league in time possession and average nearly 150 rushing yards per game since Week 6.
One area they have struggled in, however, is hitting explosive plays, particularly in the passing game. Granted, 61- and 51-yard completions by Jahan Dotson and McLaurin, respectively, were bright spots, but moments like those have not come often enough.
McLaurin believes that could change with Wentz at quarterback.
"I definitely think that's a strong part of Carson's game," McLaurin said. "Obviously, that was a big reason why we brought him here. We saw it in camp. I've been on the other end of those...so we definitely know he has the arm strength to be able to put it out there for us."
Timing is the most important thing for McLaurin and the rest of the receivers to work out with Wentz. Fortunately, the routes on air and the practices on Wednesday and Thursday will help in that area, but McLaurin said things were still comfortable for the position group when Wentz came in.
"I think that we got a preview of that during San Francisco," McLaurin said. "But during this week, we have the chance to get some good routes on air, some reps during the practice and the team period. So, really, we have to able to make it work, but it hasn't been anything that has caught any of us off guard. It's just gonna come down to the execution."
The need to make things work will come to a head on Sunday, where a win keeps Washington in control of the seventh seed, while a loss essentially eliminates the Commanders from contention.
"There's not a lot of margin for error for any of us, which makes it even more compelling, I'd assume," McLaurin said. "We still gotta be prepared to support him, but it definitely makes things very important that we execute at a high level."