Mutual respect between McLaurin, Wentz dates back to 2019 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Carson Wentz was on the opposing sideline for Terry McLaurin’s NFL debut, a clash between Philadelphia and Washington in early September of the 2019 season. After that contest, a mutual respect between the two players was born.
Wentz led the Eagles to a 32-27 victory that day, throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns, helping Philadelphia overcome a three-score deficit.
“Honestly, I remember my rookie year and we played Philly,” McLaurin said Wednesday. “I remember watching him play and the way he threw a deep ball, I was almost enamored by it.”
McLaurin shined for Washington in that Week 1 tilt, too. In his professional debut, McLaurin hauled in five receptions for 125 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown for the first score of his career.
That performance from McLaurin has stuck with Wentz, as Washington’s new signal-caller brought it up during his introductory press conference in March.
“Terry, I remember I think one of his first games when I played against him, I told him after the game, ‘I’d love to throw the ball to you someday,'” Wentz said. “Just because I think he took a slant and went 80 and I was like, ‘This kid’s different.’ Never did I think it would all line up like this.”
Now, fewer than three years from that game, Wentz and McLaurin are teammates for the first time. And, with McLaurin now locked in with the Commanders on a new three-year extension, both he and Wentz are expected to be pivotal pieces in head coach Ron Rivera’s rebuild.
McLaurin remained away from the team from late April until last week when he and the team agreed to an extension. The 26-year-old missed all of Commanders’ OTAs and minicamp while contract talks were ongoing, missing out on what would have been his first chance to catch passes from Washington’s new quarterback. And, yes, McLaurin did have some FOMO.
“It [was] weird. I don’t miss practice. You know what I mean?” McLaurin said. “Even when I’ve been banged up at times, I know how important those reps are. I know how important, you know, that chemistry is to be built, especially during this time, not just on the field, but just the chemistry and the comradery in the locker room, so that was really hard for me but, you understand the business and what has to be done.”
Now that his long-term future is taken care of, McLaurin isn’t wasting any time. He had a flight to catch immediately following Wednesday’s press conference, as he’s headed to California to throw with Wentz and other teammates.
“I’m excited to get out with Carson Wentz,” McLaurin said. “I’m jumping on a flight actually after this to go throw with him and a few of the guys. So I’m really excited for the future, and I’m happy to be part of this, what we’re doing forward here in Washington.”
Through his first three years in Washington, McLaurin has caught passes from eight different quarterbacks. That’s not ideal for any receiver, especially one of McLaurin’s caliber. Throughout contract talks with Washington, both he and Rivera admitted the team’s plan at QB, both now and in the future, was a topic of conversation.
“It’s going to be very important,” Rivera said about McLaurin and Wentz’s relationship. “When I got here, one of the conversations we had initially was that we had to identify who the franchise quarterback is. You’ve got to protect him and you’ve got to put playmakers around him. That’s part of the conversation Terry and I had, was where he fit into that puzzle and how important he is to that puzzle.”
Rivera is thrilled that McLaurin, along with several of his teammates, is going to spend time away from the facility with Wentz. That’s not only from a football perspective, either.
“It’s something I learned from Mike Ditka: it’s not just about what they’re going to be doing as far as the Xs and Os, but just that they’re going to be together,” Rivera said. “That’s the thing you feel good about, because you know they’re bonding, they’re coming together.”
Although McLaurin and Wentz haven’t spent much time together yet, the wideout has liked what he’s seen from afar. McLaurin says they’ve “connected with on a very personal level” since Wentz’s arrived, even without the practice reps.
Later on, McLaurin echoed thoughts on Wednesday that multiple of his teammates had during OTAs and minicamp: Wentz doesn’t get enough credit for some of the things he does. McLaurin specifically mentioned Wentz’s pocket presence as something that’s stood out when watching him and believes that skill set can translate to big plays between the two of them.
“He stands back there into the last moment, which really helps receivers get that extra separation or that time to finish their routes off,” McLaurin said. “[He’s] a guy who’s back there and confident. As a receiver group, I think we’re going to try to have a collective group by committee and help him out to be the best that he can.”
Having fluidity at the quarterback position across his career, McLaurin understands how important it is to have a strong connection with whoever is under center. He’s looking forward to building that with Wentz, beginning this week when they get to work together for the first time.
“Having that relationship with Carson, I really want to develop and make it as strong as possible,” McLaurin said. “So he knows he can trust not only me as a player, but as a person [and] that I got his back. I know he’s been through a lot in his career, and I know we’ll get to touch on that, but I’m a guy who’s going to have your back, man.”