Curtis Samuel was the top name on the Washington Football Team's free agent haul. His time in D.C. has not started off on the right foot.
WFT placed Samuel on injured reserve Friday thanks to a lingering groin injury suffered this summer. The move to the IR will force the veteran wide receiver to miss at least the first three games of the season, if not longer.
While Samuel, who signed a three-year, $36.5 million deal this offseason, is expected to miss time, Washington coach Ron Rivera is far from concerned. This is a chance for rookies Dyami Brown and Dax Milne to step up and contribute right away against the Los Angeles Chargers.
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Samuel missed most of training camp, allowing both rookies to see significant reps on the perimeter and in the slot with the first-team offense.
"I'm very confident in the game plan and how those guys fit. I have no concerns about that," head coach Ron Rivera told reporters this past week. "It's a good group. It really is. If Curtis plays, great. If he doesn't, great. We've got a lot of confidence in the other guys."
Washington's offensive coordinator Scott Turner said this offseason that Samuel wouldn't be limited to playing just in the slot like he did in Carolina. Depending on the formation, the 26-year-old could line up in a multitude of formations, thus keeping defenses on its toes.
The same thing should be implemented with Brown and Milne, both of whom impressed during training camp. Brown, the team's third-round pick from North Carolina, finished with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Milne, a seventh-round pick from BYU, was the go-to weapon for current New York Jets and No. 2 pick Zach Wilson.
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Both players offer values in area where Samuel could be utilized. Thanks to offensive coordinator Phil Lungo's scheme in Chapel Hill, Brown became a master of the vertical route. In 2019 and 20, he averaged 20 yards per catch and recorded at least eight touchdowns.
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Milne, who ran a more quick-temp scheme, was the first read of Wilson both on the outside and in the slot. The 6'0 target did most of his damage after the catch, recording 73 first down pickups in 2020 and posting six 100-plus yard games.
"They don't really play like rookies," veteran wide receiver Terry McLaurin said this past week. "They'll have some mistakes here and there, but those are growing pains. But both them, I call silent assassins."
Brown, who made an impressive 29-yard catch from veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick against the Cincinnati Bengals, caught the eye of Rivera during training camp, calling him a "big play waiting to happen."
"He'll be a guy that, whoever is in or out of the lineup, that's going to be a guy that makes a lot of plays for us this year," Fitzpatrick said Wednesday.
One of the biggest points of emphasis this offseason was for Washington to expand its big play ability in the passing game. Samuel, who finished with 18 plays of 20-plus yards last season, would have provided the extra umph needed in that aspect alongside McLaurin.
Milne and Brown don't possess 4.4 speed like Samuel, but they do add value thanks to the offenses they played during their respective college careers. Maybe that, plus veteran experience from Cam Sims, DeAndre Carter and Humphries should be enough to cloak his departure until hopefully Week 4 against Atlanta.