With James Conner leaving the game after reaggravating his nagging shoulder injury, Jaylen Samuels was yet again called upon to relieve him this season. Samuels has caught some flak since coming back from knee surgery and this game showed both sides of the story. It was an up and down for Samuels who was heavily involved in the gameplan after Conner’s exit, and that was both in the running and receiving game.
This is the first play I want to highlight, and it is because this is really not his fault at all. In fact, Samuels does just about everything he can by getting an extra yard or two with a good jump cut. That shows off good lateral agility that every NFL running back truly needs. Now, Samuels has looked nearly as shifty since he came back from surgery, but this is a positive play for him. Washington can not chip Burnett and because of it this play does not go for more, but Samuels just about maximized the yardage he could have gotten on this play.
Again, Samuels does not have much room here, but he has to work off of his blockers much than this. Alejandro Villanueva is not given the opportunity to climb by Samuels due to rushed footwork to get out of the backfield. Patience is not an easy trait to learn, especially since Samuels is not a natural running back, but a hitch step right here could have done wonders and opened up this play. He also continues to go down on the first contact and that is not acceptable. He needs to develop contact balance and the ability to create yards for himself. He has not shown that up to this point.
The receiving aspect of things has been the most surprising part of Samuels’ struggles this year. Just far too many drops this year. The fact that they are using Samuels in the screen game with little to no explosiveness and no ability to create yards for himself is a question I continue to pose to myself. Sure, he is the most dependable receiver out of the backfield, but they did have dynamic players like Tony Brooks-James that you can get into space and perhaps could create a big play. Regardless, Samuels does a nice job to get near the first down here, but nothing he ever does in the open field is dynamic.
Plays like this are where Samuels has to get better at right now. There is no reason to cut this fully outside when the second level is well blocked here. Samuels simply needs to follow behind Pouncey, lower his shoulder, and get downhill. There is a one-on-one opportunity in the alley to try and create some yardage for yourself on that play anyway. Decision-making continues to be an issue as well.
Jaylen Samuels might not be fully recovered from his knee surgery since he has seemed to sap him of some athletic ability that he showed earlier this year, but he has to be big this week against the Bengals. There are traits that Samuels has failed to show that do not make him dynamic or a truly three-down NFL running back. That is an issue moving forward, but he needs to show improvement and growth this week.