The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera.
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Terry McLaurin caught a slant between two defenders, breezed past a third one and streaked into the end zone for a touchdown Sunday in Arizona. It marked his first score of the season and capped an excellent performance from the second-year wideout, who hauled in seven of his 10 targets for 125 yards.
"He's a tremendous competitor and player," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said after his team's 30-15 win over the Washington Football Team. "I knew how good he was, but regardless of the score, he was out there playing his tail off. He's going to be one of the bright stars in the league moving forward."
McLaurin is already one of the most productive young pass catchers in franchise history. Through his first 16 games in Washington, he ranks second with 1,105 receiving yards, tied for second with eight receiving touchdowns and third with 70 catches. Only Charlie Brown racked up more yards and touchdowns during that stretch, which resulted in him making the Pro Bowl in 1982 and 1983. Two other Pro Bowlers -- Gary Clark and Jordan Reed -- made more receptions.
McLaurin did not make the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but his early-career statistics suggest it is only a matter of time.
"Everything about him says pro," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He's a solid football player. He's a solid young man. He does the things that you expect a guy like him to do. He shows up on time, ready to go to work. He handles himself above and beyond. He's a young man that hopefully stays healthy and has a long career and a very productive one for us here."
A third-round pick in 2019, McLaurin wowed his coaches and teammates from the moment he stepped onto the practice field. He became a starter before his NFL debut and scored a 69-yarder on his third-career offensive drive. By season's end, he had produced one of the best seasons by a rookie wideout in franchise history.
McLaurin has carried that success into 2020, as he currently ranks eighth in the league with 186 receiving yards and tied for 16th with 12 receptions. And much of that production has come against a pair of perennial Pro Bowlers in Darius Slay and Patrick Peterson. On Sunday, McLaurin beat Peterson on a slant route for a 24-yard touchdown, putting him over 100 receiving yards for the fourth time in his career. He's the only Washington pass-catcher to accomplish that feat within his first 16 games.
McLaurin was part of a stacked offense at Ohio State, which largely contributed to him being the 12th wide receiver and the 76th player taken in the NFL draft. But of all the wideouts selected ahead of him, none had as many catches or yards as McLaurin did during his first 16 games, and only A.J. Brown matched McLaurin's scoring total.
Heading into this season, wide receivers coach Jim Hostler said McLaurin's growth will depend on how he handles the expectations of being a No. 1 receiver. No longer will teams be surprised when McLaurin hauls in a deep ball or catches a touchdown pass. They'll be expecting it, yet McLaurin will still have to find ways to get open to help an inexperienced offense.
So far, McLaurin has lived up to the deserved hype.
-- Scherff sidelined for at least three weeks: To compensate for the risks of COVID-19, teams are allowed to activate an unlimited number of players off Injured Reserve after three weeks for this season only. Since Washington placed Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff on IR on Tuesday, the earliest he'll be able to come back is for Week 6 against the New York Giants.
Scherff left Sunday's game with a knee injury, but Rivera said the team received "some good news" about its top offensive lineman Monday. "He's going to miss a couple of weeks or something like that, but it's all positive. We'll go from there."
Wes Schweitzer, who replaced Scherff at right guard against the Cardinals, is listed as the starter in the latest depth chart, which was released Tuesday. Fifth-round rookie Keith Ismael is now the backup at all three interior offensive line spots.
-- Sims promoted to the active roster: Washington took advantage of another new rule by temporarily elevating Cam Sims to the 53-man roster for the first two games. Sims played 48% of the special teams snaps in the season opener and then played 71% of those snaps in Arizona. He also received four offensive snaps Sunday, serving as the fifth receiver instead of undrafted rookie Isaiah Wright, who was inactive.
By placing Scherff on IR, Washington was able to avoid waiving someone in favor of Sims, who likely would have been called up at some point anyway.
-- Pierre-Louis finds success in starting role: During his first three NFL seasons, linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis combined for 43 total tackles. He recorded almost a third of those during Sunday's game with 15 takedowns (10 solo) and a forced fumble, all of which helped him earn Pro Football Focus' Secret Superstar of the Week.
"Pierre-Louis was lights-out in coverage, making numerous stops in a blink of an eye. He had five passing stops on the day en route to a 93.0 coverage grade. Both of those marks led all off-ball linebackers in Week 2. Pierre-Louis might have followed a journeyman's path to this point, but he looks like a secret superstar in the making."
As a seven-year pro, Pierre-Louis is finally getting the chance to be a full-time starter and making the most of it.
"He's a really good football player," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said about Pierre-Louis after the Eagles' game. "We had one really glaring technique error in coverage on a tight end that he can do in his sleep. I have all the confidence in the world that he'll do that at a much higher rate. He let one get away that I would say he let get away from him, technique-wise. Other than that, I think he's going to be a really good player for us."
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