Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington has fallen under the radar so far in 2020. Rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool has taken a lot of that recognition. Washington hasn’t strung together a highlight reel, but he has made several big plays. He has recorded 117 receiving yards on 13 receptions with a touchdown through four games. With Diontae Johnson slated to miss this week’s game with the Cleveland Browns, Washington will be in a situation to potentially make a big impact. Expect him to make the most of the opportunity.
James Washington Could Shine in Week 6
Has the Trust of Ben Roethlisberger
Though James Washington has only been targeted 19 times in four games, Ben Roethlisberger looks his way at key moments. Of his 13 receptions on the season, eight have resulted in a first down for the Steelers. Roethlisberger knows that Washington can be counted on to make a play in important situations. One interesting note is that Washington’s average depth of target this season is just 7.5 yards downfield. Last year, it was 15.8 yards downfield. Despite probably being the team’s best deep threat, Washington is being targeted more in short yardage, “go get us a first down” situations. It’s also worth nothing that Washington has played the second most snaps of any Steelers receiver this year, only behind JuJu Smith-Schuster. The numbers show that Pittsburgh likes having Washington on the field, especially when they need a first down.
Friendly Matchup With the Browns
That brings us to the matchup that James Washington can exploit in Week 6. Cleveland will be without Karl Joseph and Ronnie Harrison in this game, two of their top three safeties. Sheldrick Redwine, who has played just 19 snaps this season, will be thrust into the starting lineup alongside Andrew Sendejo. If we know anything about Ben Roethlisberger, he will look to exploit the inexperienced safety. Washington will almost certainly benefit from that weakness in the back of the Browns secondary.
The status of the safeties on the Browns will open up some deep ball opportunities for the Steelers defense. Between Washington or Claypool, one of them will be the main beneficiary as a deep ball threat. Yes, as previously mentioned, Washington hasn’t been getting a ton of targets on deep passes this year. But we know from years past that he’s a very good option in the deep passing game, and he has built chemistry with Roethlisberger in that regard. With the way Claypool is producing lately, he’ll likely draw more attention from Cleveland’s secondary. Between him and Smith-Schuster, the Browns will have enough coverage dedicated that Washington will slide under the radar.
With the way Claypool is playing, he’ll still get plenty of targets. Roethlisberger likes him on the deep ball, too. Smith-Schuster will get his targets because he’s still the best wide receiver on this team. Even if Washington doesn’t see a ton of targets, he’ll still get more chances to make a play on a deep ball. Look for him to connect with Roethlisberger on a home run ball and thrust his slow 2020 season into high gear.
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