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Nothing is coming easy for Washington WR Terry McLaurin, but he's dominating anyway

Nothing is coming easy for Washington WR Terry McLaurin, but he's dominating anyway

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As part of the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, the league assigns an “expected catch percentage” to a receiver every time the ball is thrown his way.

It notes the likelihood the player will catch the pass, given the situation, defense and where the ball is thrown.

The first three times Washington targeted Terry McLaurin on Sunday, his average expected catch percentage was 28%.

McLaurin hauled in all three.

The day ended with 5 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, a standard line for a star receiver but one made remarkable when considering Carolina’s entire defensive strategy appeared to be making sure McLaurin doesn’t catch the ball.

Through three seasons in Washington, McLaurin has received virtually no help. He’s rolled through more quarterbacks than most players do in a career (he’s caught passes from 7, but he and Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t connect in their short time together).

The team finally got him help in the form of another standout wide receiver, his former Ohio State teammate Curtis Samuel, but Samuel has played just 25 snaps this year because of a groin injury.

Yet through it all, McLaurin keeps producing.

“He’s killing it,” said receiver DeAndre Carter. “Takes big hits and still makes plays and stuff like that. He embodies who we are as a football team. A tough, hard-nosed kid. He’s balling.”

For Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, there’s no such thing as waiting for McLaurin to get open.

Heinicke said he looks at McLaurin’s matchup, and if the defense only puts one defender on him, instead of two, he knows where the ball is going.

“When you see him 1-on-1, you give him a shot,” Heinicke said. “He continues to make plays, and you just want to keep giving him shots.”

As for McLaurin, his relentless work ethic helped create those opportunities.

Coming out of college as a third-round pick, Washington eyed him as a potential special teams captain, a player with drive and leadership ability, but it remained to be seen whether he could become an NFL receiver capable of making contested catches.

Recalling an early conversation he had, McLaurin said Sunday that knowledge created a desire to improve his skills and become a player the team could rely on.

“I started attempting to improve on that, day-in and day-out,” he said. “It was just an insatiable thing that I had to create if I wanted to play at this level.

“When you have those opportunities with the ball in the air and you can come down with them, it just gives a lot of energy and confidence to your quarterback, your offense and your team.”

McLaurin isn’t satisfied with just being Washington’s top receiver, though.

“if you want to be a top receiver in the league, you have to be able to make those plays time in and time out,” he said. “I’m not perfect, and I’m continually getting better, but that’s definitely something that I can put in my toolbox to say that’s something I can build on and continue to grow in my career.”

mphillips@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6546

Twitter: @michaelpRTD

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