Heading into their second preseason game, the Washington Football Team has intriguing roster storylines throughout the 85-man roster. This includes a crowded safety room with the additions of Bobby McCain and Darrick Forrest and a third running back question with the emergence of Jaret Patterson. However, the most interesting position to watch as August 31st rolls around (the day where rosters must be cut to 53) could be the wide receiver position.
Ron Rivera and company overhauled the wide receiver position in just one year, making it one of the deepest position groups on the team. An indicator of this overhaul is the release of Kelvin Harmon. Prior to tearing his ACL last season, Harmon was one of the favorites to be the second wide receiver in 2020, opposite of Terry McLaurin, following a promising rookie season. However, a favorite to be a starting wide receiver just last season, Harmon was cut on Sunday as a result of the influx of talent with the third-round selection of Dyami Brown and free-agent signings of Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries. With this newfound depth and questions in the return game, after Steven Sims and Isaiah Wright combined for four lost fumbles on punt returns last season, the Washington Football Team faces the possibility of keeping a rare, seventh wide receiver on the 53-man roster.
Washington Football Team Roster: Adding a Seventh Wide Receiver
The Need for Another Physical Receiver
One of the major reasons for keeping a seventh wide receiver lies in the lack of physical, red zone receiving targets for Washington. The projected starting receiving trio of Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Adam Humphries is quite undersized for Washington, with McLaurin being the tallest at just 6’’-0’. Dyami Brown, the rookie from North Carolina, is also in the “speed receiver” mold with his six-foot, 185-pound frame. Currently, Cam Sims is the only jump ball and redzone threat, outside of Logan Thomas, projected to make the roster. Sims finally had his breakthrough season last year, emerging as a solid second wide receiver, catching 32 passes for 477 yards and posting 104 yards on seven receptions in the Wild Card game against the eventual Super Bowl Champion, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Despite the emergence of Sims, Washington still needs another big-bodied receiver who is a jump ball threat. After the release of Kelvin Harmon, the favorite for this position is Antonio Gandy-Golden. The second-year player from Liberty had an unproductive rookie season as he caught just one pass for three yards on seven targets. However, this could partly be attributed to the leap from Liberty to the NFL and the shortened Covid-19 offseason. In the first preseason game, Gandy-Golden did not record a catch. He almost had a successful two-point conversion, but it was overturned on replay. With his two 1000-yard seasons at Liberty and selection by the current regime, Gandy-Golden may have an inside track to securing a roster spot.
Help in the Return Game and the Slot
While Gandy-Golden does add much-needed size to the receiving corps, he does not solve the Burgundy and Gold’s issue on special teams. With McLaurin, Samuel, Humphries, Brown, and Sims as almost locks on the roster and Gandy-Golden as the sixth, it could leave another spot open for a special teams impact player or the slot position. Steven Sims had an electric rookie season, catching 34 passes for 310 yards and scoring on a 91-yard kickoff return against the Detroit Lions. After lofty expectations in 2020, the undrafted player from Kansas struggled in his sophomore season. In addition to the aforementioned struggles on special teams, Sims was not himself from the slot as his issue with drops continued, with 2, on just 37 targets. He ended with just 265 receiving yards. But, Sims has looked impressive in training camp, which could change perceptions after a rough 2020 season.
Love seeing Steven Sims go up and make a hands catch. He's gotta prove that he's reliable with his mitts. That was a positive step toward doing so
— Pete Hailey (@PeteHaileyNBCS) August 13, 2021
Sims may also be one of the likeliest players to get picked up on the waiver wires, which could impact his roster status.
DeAndre Carter is another promising returner for the Washington Football Team. Carter is entering his fourth season after spending time with the Bears and Texans last season. He has 63 career punt returns and 45 kick returns, which highlight his experience. Carter also looked solid in Washington’s first preseason game as he returned two punts for 38 yards.
If Washington elects to add another slot receiver behind Adam Humphries, Dax Milne could be another candidate. Milne was drafted by Washington in the seventh round out of BYU in the 2021 NFL Draft. Milne is a sure-handed receiver, who is also a relatively good router runner. He caught 70 passes for 1188 yards last season at BYU, scoring eight touchdowns. He also had a solid punt return against the Bengals for 19 yards. Milne seems primed for a practice squad spot if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster.
While it is likely that Washington’s returner comes from the wide receiver, there are possibilities that could cause a change in plans. Ron Rivera wants Jaret Patterson to receive reps in the return game, which could bode well for his roster chances. If Patterson shows competency as a punt returner, he could take the spot of a potential seventh wide receiver.
Injury Concerns and Consequences on the Roster
Lastly, while the two most compelling reasons for a seventh receiver are the need for a jump ball threat and a returner, injury concerns could also add another receiver into the mix. Curtis Samuel missed more than two months with a groin injury as he was activated from PUP earlier this week. If Samuel takes some time in getting into game shape or building a rapport with Ryan Fitzpatrick, it is possible that Washington could keep another wide receiver to begin the season. Adam Humphries also has a documented injury history as he has played just 19 games over the last two seasons. Last season, he was placed on injured reserve following a concussion.
If Washington ends up keeping a seventh wide receiver, it will have ramifications on the rest of the roster. A seventh wide receiver almost certainly ends the possibility of a fourth running back for Washington. It could leave Jaret Patterson subject to the practice squad or force Washington to cut Peyton Barber, a short-yardage specialist. Assuming Washington keeps nine offensive linemen, it will also cause an interesting dilemma with Sammis Reyes. There would be three spots for tight ends in this scenario. Logan Thomas and John Bates will have the first two, but Washington may be reluctant to have a completely inexperienced tight end in Reyes over Ricky Seals-Jones and Temarrick Hemingway. It could lead to a potential IR stash for Reyes. At the end of the day, there are legitimate reasons for keeping seven wide receivers, but the reality will lead to repercussions for multiple position groups.
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