Ryan Fitzpatrick might face the most scrutiny, but it was Curtis Samuel that became the marquee addition for the Washington Football Team this offseason. A quality No. 2 target was the top need for WFT after a 7-9 finish last season.
Samuel provides that following his four seasons of success with the Carolina Panthers. Now, Washington already knows his role will be explosive come Week 1 of the new campaign.
"When the ball is in his hands, the production is tremendous," Washington coach Ron Rivera said of Samuel. "The thing we got to do is make sure we have him on the field and make sure that he gets the opportunity to touch the ball. The analytics show that this is a guy that has to be a big part of your offense."
Unlike Dyami Brown, Dax Milne or Adam Humphries, Washington already knows Samuel. Rivera drafted him out of Ohio State with a second-round pick in 2017. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner was his interim play-caller following Rivera's firing in 2019.
Fans of the franchise also saw from the TV screens last season at home what Samuel can do production wise. In the 20-13 victory over Carolina last winter, the 24-year-old not only won with his hands, but also factored a bit of his speed in the ground game.
Samuel finished the day with five catches for 106 yards. That wasn't all. From the backfield, he added another 52 yards on seven carries, including a 45-yard run that set the Panthers up for a score. Combined, he had 158 yards on the day.
"I'm pretty sure if I'm getting the ball the analytics are saying something," Samuel said. "I just have to keep making things happen."
One the factors that led to Samuel signing with WFT was his versatility. A hybrid player at Ohio State, the former Buckeye played both wide receiver and running back under Urban Meyer.
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In their final season in the Queen City, Turner and Rivera implemented more designed runs for Samuel on the ground. He finished 2019 with 19 rushing attempts for 130 yards in 2019. Under new OC Joe Brady the carries doubled to 41 carries and 200 yards.
"Curtis has been, and is, an ascending player," Turner said Thursday. "They handed him the ball a little more and that's something he can do, not just be a wide receiver, but be used as a running back. He can play all over the field, whether it's outside, inside, in the backfield, in motion. Those are going to be the things he does ... which is everything."
Despite his frame, Samuel will not be limited to the slot during his time in Washington. The plan will be to utilize him in multiple formations, constantly changing his pattern on the field and keeping the defense on its toes.
Under Rivera's final season, Samuel was used more on the outside, recording 41 catches compared to 11 inside. With Matt Rhule and Brady, the numbers almost identically switched, with 45 catches in the slot and 14 out wide.
As the NFL evolves, gadget players are becoming more second nature to offense. Rivera admitted that when coming out of Columbus, Samuel was the ideal gadget type that could work in today's NFL.
Over time, Samuel became a cleaner route-runner with running back speed. The ability to make defenders miss across the middle of the was a weapon.
It now will help Ryan Fitzpatrick and Washington's offense take new leaps in 2021. According to Samuel, expect the end zone to be his new home by the season's end
"All I can say is we're going to score some touchdowns," Samuel said.
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