As he has hinted at all offseason, expect a slimmer and faster Jaylen Samuels heading into his sophomore season. Per this tweet from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Samuels told him he’s focused on his speed during the summer.
This echos what he told reporters during OTAs, saying he wanted to prove his conditoning to the coaching staff.
“Playing faster,” he said last month. “But most definitely, showing I am in condition. That’s the main thing coming into OTAs. Because we don’t have pads on or anything. We can finish downfield without getting hit.”
It’s also believed he’ll come in a lighter than he did during his rookie season where he played around 225 pounds. A lack of burst and speed was evident in his game and like so many players ahead of him, James Conner and Le’Veon Bell come to mind, he’s working on shedding pounds and increasing his speed. Samuels ran a 4.54 at the 2018 NFL Combine.
He’ll be counted on for a role at the start of the season unlike last year where he began as the team’s #3. Conner and the front office have hinted at some sort of committee approach though it’s unclear how that’ll look. On the surface, Samuels will play on more passing downs, utilizing his natural receiver skillset that got him drafted.
As a rookie, he carried the ball 56 times for 256 yards, an average of a healthy 4.6 yards per carry, while catching 26 passes for three touchdowns. It was the most receiving touchdowns by a Steelers’ rookie back since Rodney Carter in 1987, who ended his football career with more receptions than carries anyway.
Samuels’ best game came in the pivotal win over the New England Patriots. After struggling the week before against Oakland, he toted the ball 19 times for 142 yards, tacking on another pair of receptions for 30 more yards. As a runner, though, he’s still searching for his first career touchdown. With Conner and Benny Snell profiling as short-yardage backs, that milestone may elude Samuels for a little while longer.