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With Super Bowl LV capping off the 2020 season, it is time to look ahead to the 2021 campaign.
Over the next two weeks, Washingtonfootball.com will break down every position group and lay out who the team could potentially add via free agency and the draft.
After breaking down the running backs, next up are the wide receivers:
The top photos of Terry McLaurin's 2020 season.
On The Roster
Washington had a bevy of young position groups heading into the 2020 season, but the wide receivers were among the most inexperienced and certainly had the most to prove in a new offensive system. With the exception of Dontrelle Inman, who was entering his seventh season, most of Washington's receivers were three years or fewer removed from their college careers. Three of them -- Steven Sims Jr., Isaiah Wright and Cam Sims -- were signed as undrafted free agents in the past three seasons.
The group still answered some critical questions in 2020, the biggest being whether Terry McLaurin could handle the expectation as Washington's No. 1 receiver. There was little doubt all year that the former third-round pick was up the task. Not only did he finish the season by improving in nearly every statistical category -- 87 receptions for 1,118 yards on 134 targets -- but he was also unanimously voted as a team captain during the season.
McLaurin routinely faced off against No. 1 cornerbacks like Darius Slay, Denzel Ward and Jalen Ramsey, but that did not bother him. He viewed facing off against the best defensive backs as a fun challenge, and he still managed to catch nearly 65% of his targets and average 74.5 yards per game. The next step for McLaurin, according to newly-promoted wide receivers coach Drew Terrell, is to get McLaurin ready to pursue his next 1,000-yard season, which he believes is more difficult than the first.
"Terry's a smart kid," Terrell said. "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."
There was no doubt heading into the season that McLaurin would be an integral part of Washington's receiver corps, but there was speculation as to who would be the team's No. 2 pass-catcher opposite of him. It took some time, but eventually Cam Sims, who had only caught two passes for 27 yards in the previous two seasons, became a reliable second option.
Sims' first big moment of the season came in Week 6, when he caught a 22-yard pass from Kyle Allen against the New York Giants that brought Washington within one point of tying the score in the fourth quarter. From that point on, he was a more featured piece on offense; he appeared in an average of 90.5% of the offensive snaps for the remaining 11 games. Sims did not score another touchdown, but did have several standout games, including 110 yards against the Giants in Week 9, 92 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13 and 104 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
"It's a testament to this league and kind of what it's about," said offensive coordinator Scott Turner. "You don't know when your opportunity is going to come in this league, but when you do you make the most of it. The reward for doing a good job is an opportunity to do it again. Cam's made the most of that."
The remaining group of Washington's receivers, which included the likes of Inman, Wright, Steven Sims Jr., had varying levels of success. Wright only had 197 yards but still caught 77.1% of his targets; Inman only started in two games but still had moments like his two-touchdown performance against the Cleveland Browns; and Sims caught a touchdown against the Buccaneers that brought Washington within eight points of tying the score.
Other options like Antonio Gandy-Golden and Robert Foster showed flashes of potential but were not heavily featured this season for various reasons. Gandy-Golden was placed on Injured Reserve in October, and while he did eventually return, he was not much of a factor for the rest of the season. Foster appeared in five games and caught two passes for 37 yards.
Despite working in a new system and learning under new conditions, Terrell said he and senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler were surprised by how well the group was able to apply what they were being taught. As they enter Year 2 of playing in Turner's offense, Terrell's priority is to help the receivers keep showing improvement.
"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."
There should be plenty of options in free agency if new general manager Martin Mayhew and executive vice president of football/player personnel Marty Hurney want to bolster Washington's wide receivers. A.J. Green was voted to seven consecutive Pro Bowls and recorded six 1,000-yard seasons. Allen Robinson, who is considered to be a highly-coveted player this offseason, had 1,250 yards and six touchdowns in 2020. Other players expected to be available include T.Y. Hilton, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Corey Davis and Curtis Samuel.
Check out a list of all of the impending free agent receivers, HERE.
Should Washington want to address the receiver position through the draft, there should be a number of players to select from with its eight draft picks. LSU's Ja'Marr Chase and Alabama's DeVonta Smith are regarded as some of the best prospects this year, but names further down the list, Amari Rodgers (Clemson), Sage Surratt (Wake Forest) and Nico Collins (Michigan) could also be quality players.
Check out a list of all of the wide receiver prospects, HERE.