Top 10 wide receivers in the NFL are hard to come by. How hard? There's a reason we only name 10 of them.
The Washington Football Team might not be known for its wide receiver play in the past, but maybe it should be in 2021. After all, Terry McLaurin isn't a Top 10 receiver following Week 2 of the NFL, but he's creeping into consideration.
If anything, Thursday night's 30-29 victory over the New York Giants proved that he's on the cusp of being a superstar at his position, and the clear-cut No. 1 option for the D.C. franchise.
With quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick out, it was up to Taylor Heinicke to lead Washington to victory at home. Heinicke, making his second career start, looked to his go-to target early and often.
No surprise, that was McLaurin.
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During the second quarter, WFT found its rhythm on offense with Henicke through the air. Twice, McLaurin was able to beat Giants' Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry in man-to-man coverage. The first play kept the drive alive for a first down gain.
The second came on an 11-yard score, tying the game at 7-7. Just like that, Washington looked in business. Henicke played the part of a stable quarterback and McLaurin shined in front of the home crowd.
In the fourth quarter, Henicke found the receiver for two more key first downs, setting up Dustin Hopkins for a 37-yard field goal. And in the final, frantic drive, it was McLaurin's 6-yard reception that put the kicker in prime position for his dramatic game-winner.
Well that, plus an offsides call.
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McLaurin finished the night with 11 catches for 107 yards and the score. Henicke, who likely has earned some praise from head coach Ron Rivera, went 33 of 46 for 336 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Not a bad night for Washington's favorite new duo.
In two seasons, McLaurin has proven to be one of the top emerging targets in the league. In 2019, he record 919 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie. The following season, he was Washington's only receiver to surpass the 1,000-yard marker with 1,118.
Reaching the 1,000-yard milestone is a tall task for any target. Try doing it with multiple quarterbacks. Last season, Washington started four different names under center. The year before, they started three.
Seven quarterbacks have taken snaps under center for Washington since McLaurin entered the DMV. No matter the man calling the play, it's McLaurin's consistency that allows him to find success against cornerbacks in coverage.
In some ways, it's actually the receiver who continues to make the quarterback look better than advertised, bailing them out of ill-missed throws and off target balls.
Is it too soon to call McLaurin a Top 10 receiver? For now, perhaps. Two games into the season isn't enough to declare him the next great pass-catcher for the next decade.
Consider this: Top 10 quarterbacks usually make lower-tier targets look great. The same could be said when flipping positions.
In a way, McLaurin's performance might actually have elevated the success of Henicke at home, no matter the outcome at FedEx Field.
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