For a Washington Commanders team that hopes to contend for an NFC East title this season, getting meaningful contributions from wide receiver Curtis Samuel will be crucial.
There’s been a lot of attention toward the Commanders’ receivers situation in recent months. They drafted Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson near the end of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft back in April. With star receiver Terry McLaurin openly displaying his frustration at the time, the Dotson pick raised some eyebrows and caused speculation that he might be the guy to take over as the Commanders’ No. 1 receiver should McLaurin force his way out of Washington.
Of course, McLaurin finally reached an agreement with the Commanders on an extension just a couple of weeks ago. The three-year extension gave the team a bit of clarity on their receiving corps for the next few years with Dotson and McLaurin locked in. Still, there’s some lingering uncertainty about Samuel, their slot receiver and third member of the starting trio.
Washington signed Curtis Samuel to a three-year, $34.5 million deal last offseason with the hope that he’d be a useful contributor from the slot with McLaurin and Adam Humphries on the outside. After all, he had just finished a career year with the Panthers in which he showed off his versatility as both a rusher and a receiver, finishing his 2020 season with 1,051 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns.
But after his first year in the nation’s capital, the Commanders’ move for Samuel hasn’t looked too promising.
Samuel injured his groin during OTAs last offseason, leading to surgery which held him back from participating in mandatory minicamp and most of training camp. During training camp, he tweaked it again and missed the first three weeks of the season. His stint on the active roster in his return lasted only two weeks before suffering another setback in Week 5 and missing six more weeks. Samuel played in just three more games that season, catching two passes for eight yards, before missing the final four weeks with a hamstring injury. In all, he played just five games in his first year in Washington.
Curtis Samuel’s first year with the Commanders ended as a completely lost season for him and the team, and his injury troubles were likely a big part in why Washington drafted Dotson in the first round. But that doesn’t mean 2022 will play out the same way. In fact, Samuel’s the biggest X-factor for this team. He could either be a big part of the Commanders’ campaign for a NFC East title or the reason they fall out of contention.
The sixth-year receiver clearly has plenty of talent as both a receiver and rusher, making his versatility one of the Commanders’ greatest assets going into this season. The team already has running backs Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic and rookie Brian Robinson Jr., but they’ll also have the chance to get Samuel involved occasionally to shake things up. Even if the Commanders want to keep him in a receiving-only role, Samuel’s already proven his skills as a talented slot receiver, further enhancing Washington’s pass attack with McLaurin and Dotson.
Samuel is off to a good start in his mission to redeem himself after a lost 2021 season. He’s been able to avoid injury so far and is already starting to build chemistry with new Washington quarterback Carson Wentz. The former Colts starter recently called him “explosive,” pointing to his quick-twitch ability and elusiveness with the ball in his hands. Indeed, his yards after catch ability was what made Samuel so successful in 2020, and the Commanders hope to see that trend continue with a full 2022 season ahead.
So, even though McLaurin and Dotson have gotten far more attention in recent months (and deservedly so), Curtis Samuel can’t be slept on as a really important piece of the Commanders’ offense in 2022. If he avoids injury and returns to his 2020 form, he could help push Washington right into playoff—and NFC East—contention.