While the expectations heading into his second season were obviously elevated for wide receiver James Washington, I don’t think that anybody necessarily expected that he would be putting up big, game-changing performances, as he has done a few times over the course of the past five games, including both of the past two.
He had a career game on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, catching all four of his targets for 111 yards and a touchdown. All four were noteworthy catches, with three going for 30 or more yards. He made two nice snags going out of bounds at the sideline, and hauled in a concentration catch, making adjustments with the ball in the air, for a 30-yard touchdown after he was interfered with by the defensive back.
For his efforts in that game, he was awarded a spot on Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week for Week 13, as the ‘flex’ position on offense that can go to any skill position. Alshon Jeffery of the Philadelphia Eagles and DeVante Parker of the Miami Dolphins were the other wide receivers on the team. Of Washington, the article reads:
It was a different quarterback but the same result for the Steelers this week as they secured a 20-13 win over the Cleveland Browns at home. Washington connected well with new quarterback Devlin Hodges, catching all four of his total targets for 111 yards, one touchdown and two other first downs, with 105 of those yards coming on passes that traveled at least 10 yards in the air. All told, he generated a perfect 158.3 passer rating for the Steelers’ offense.
A perfect passer rating is good, right? Anyway, he wasn’t the only member of the Steelers to make it onto the list. If I told you that Kerrith Whyte was on here—and you didn’t read the headline—would you have believed me? Of course, he made it as a kick returner, and not a running back.
For the first time all season, the Steelers recorded a kick return that went past the 40-yard line. Though they are still looking for their first 40-plus-yard return, Whyte did go for 34 following a kick that he fielded on the seven-yard line. He also returned another kick 21 yards to the 31-yard line. Statistically, he picked up 72 yards on three returns, averaging 24 yards per return, but it was the way that he returned them, and the tackles that he broke, that obviously earned him the honor.
He offered the Steelers about the firs thing that even approximated a spark in the kick return game over the course of the past two seasons, so that has to be worth something. And he’s only been on the team for a couple of weeks. How much can he grow into the role by the end of the year?