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After another 1,000-yard season, McLaurin wants to be more 'dynamic' after the catch

Terry McLaurin makes a grab before stepping out of bounds during the Washington Football Team's game against the New York Giants. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
Terry McLaurin makes a grab before stepping out of bounds during the Washington Football Team's game against the New York Giants. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

The next four to six weeks are going to be relatively relaxing for Terry McLaurin. It's a time for him to unplug from a physical and mental standpoint and focus on parts of his life that don't include being a professional athlete.

Once that time is over, it's back to work for the standout 2019 third-round pick, and he already has an idea for what he wants to improve next.

"Going into next year, I think I want to improve my runs after the catch," McLaurin told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson. "I want to be a guy who can be dynamic with the ball in my hand after the catch."

McLaurin has spent every season of his young career trying to prove he can be a complete wideout. Not only has he done that, but he's proven that point time and time again. That's because he knows a critical fact: there is no stopping point when trying to establish yourself as a No. 1 threat.

There's not much McLaurin hasn't accomplished in his first three seasons. He just became the first Washington receiver since the mid-1990's to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He has 3,090 yards in his career with 16 touchdowns and caught nearly two-thirds of his targets. And by the way, that came with about a dozen quarterback changes.

If there's one area McLaurin could stand to improve upon, it would be his yards after the catch. He had 317 yards after the catch during the 2021 season, which puts him at 55th among pass-catchers. That's essentially on par with what he had in his previous two seasons, when he finished with 490 in 2020 and 220 in 2019.

"I think I'm a very physical runner, and I'm tough to bring down, but just kind of being more elusive and making those plays after the catch," McLaurin said.

That's not to say that McLaurin hasn't shown that he's capable of being a threat after the catch. He's done so multiple times in his career going back to his rookie season. His first touchdown was a 69-yard reception that he caught at the Philadelphia Eagles' 25-yard line and outran a defensive back for the score. The same could be said in the second matchup against the Eagles' that season, when he made a defender miss at the 40-yard line and turned a 15-yard completion into a 75-yard touchdown.

But for McLaurin, who averages 4.6 yards after the catch for his career, consistency is more important than the occasional flash. He's proven he's capable of making big plays; he had seven catches result in gains of at least 40 yards in 2021 alone. Now, he wants to show that he can get more out of his targets.

"[Taking] those short yards and making them into big gains," McLaurin said. "I think that would really help not only myself, but our offense."

If McLaurin approaches this offseason with a similar vigor to last offseason, there shouldn't be any doubt that he can make strides in improving his yards after the catch. He spent last year striving to improve in his contested catches, which was a perceived weakness of his skillset. Now, it's one of his biggest strengths. In fact, there was no one better at making contested catches than McLaurin, who led the league in the category.

"He's not ever really covered," said offensive coordinator Scott Turner. "I mean, sometimes guys can cover him, obviously. You get a one-on-one opportunity more often than not, he's going to bring the ball down. He's shown it. Some of the ones that he's made over the first couple of games were pretty unbelievable."

And it didn't take long for his teammates to learn that when McLaurin is in a one-on-one matchup, you take your chances with him.

"He works every day," said DeAndre Carter. "I don't think I've seen too many people make contested catches like that."

There isn't a doubt that McLaurin has established himself as Washington's best offensive playmaker and one of the brightest young stars in the league. That, however, is not what he chooses to focus on though.

"I'm very critical of myself," McLaurin said. "I don't really like talking about the things I did well. I like to focus on more of the things I could do in the future and improve on."

It sounds like McLaurin is more than ready to take on his next challenge.

"I never want to be in a position in this league…to feel like I got it or become complacent," McLaurin said. "As soon as that happens, you kind of lose a step, and that's when guys pass you by. You gotta always have that edge to feel like you have to do something to prove yourself and improve."

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