Washington's Terry McLaurin gets tips from OBJ on being a 'dominant' WR

ASHBURN, Va. -- The offseason workout with Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. provided Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin a glimpse into what other wideouts think of him. Beckham told him how much he liked his game. It also provided a blueprint for McLaurin to follow. More than anything, that's what he wanted.

After all, he's trying to get to the place Beckham resides as a proven No. 1 target.

"I want to be a guy who can be a dominant receiver in this league. I don't shy away from that," McLaurin said.

The question for Washington, as well as in fantasy football: Can McLaurin do so? There are reasons to be optimistic, starting with his approach. And there are reasons to wonder, because Washington doesn't have a lot of firepower on offense, placing more burden on McLaurin.

But wanting to be That Guy means being expected to produce.

"That's the challenge. Last year he didn't have any of that," said first-year Washington receivers coach Jim Hostler. "It's the pressure of being a No. 1 guy."

McLaurin caught 58 passes for 919 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Washington still needs someone to emerge who can take the pressure off McLaurin. As a rookie, he faced numerous top cornerbacks, including Byron Jones (then with Dallas) twice, Darius Slay (then with Detroit) and Stephon Gilmore (New England), among others.

"Last year when I watched him play, he surprised me with his play speed," Hostler said. "How well he played with people around him, how well he played fast, how well he got to where he needed to go against good players, challenging players and how well he finished with people around him. ... Usually that takes time."

This season, McLaurin will play in an offense that promises to attack more down the field. Washington will need consistent play from quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who is still developing but should be better than last season. At this time last year, Haskins was still learning to call plays in the huddle and trying to master the formations.

McLaurin also is working to diversify his game. Before the lockdown in March, he spent time working in Florida at Bommarito Performance Systems, focusing on footwork and ankle mobility. He said he wanted to get out of his routes cleaner and quicker.

He also worked out with Beckham and other receivers such as the New York Giants' Sterling Shepherd. One day, Beckham approached McLaurin and asked him to watch him run routes and provide tips. McLaurin asked for the same.

"I like being around like-minded people," McLaurin said. "Anytime I can learn from guys like that, I'm going to try to do it."

What he learned from Beckham came as much from watching the Browns' star as listening to him.

"Just the way he runs his route is very smooth and fluid," McLaurin said. "The biggest thing I probably took away was probably his suddenness, but he's not in a hurry the way he runs his routes. So, I'm continually working on that right now -- using my speed but having control in the way that I'm coming in and out of my routes."

In camp, McLaurin has excelled at creating separation, particularly on in-breaking routes when defenders must honor his deep speed. But he continues to show the ability to plant hard and cut, adding extra space between himself and the defender.

He's also showing a fiery side. After beating a defensive back one day, he said: "I told you I'd get you on the next one." Another time he had to stretch out on a deep ball from Haskins for a score. McLaurin immediately bounced up, took the ball and punted it before celebrating with teammates.

"It's the best I've seen Terry," Haskins said.

Said Washington cornerback Ronald Darby of McLaurin: "He's one of the best I've went up against because he's going to work each play. He knows how to get out of his cuts full-speed. He's smart, he wants to learn and get better. ... and he's young. That's the scary thing."

Most of Washington's other receivers are young, too, and there isn't a clear second starter among them. Slot receiver Steven Sims Jr. finished strong last season with 20 catches for 230 yards and four touchdowns over the last four games. The others, as of now: Trey Quinn (can he stay healthy?), Antonio Gandy-Golden (rookie) and journeyman Dontrelle Inman, 31, who has 65 catches over the past three years. Washington also lacks a proven pass-catcher at tight end.

Washington will move McLaurin around like a No. 1 receiver, which it did some last season. He can run routes from all three receiver positions, though will line up mostly as the X.

"When you have a No. 1 guy it is all about how defenses are going to defend him," Hostler said. "The ability for him to move around, expand his route tree, challenge defenders inside and out, that is where ... he needs to grow."

McLaurin is excited about the challenge.

"I'm really looking forward to taking that next step, and seeing what it's like being a guy that's probably more focused on by defenses," he said, "how I have to adjust my game and continue to be successful."

Washington will use more play-action this season under coordinator Scott Turner. Last season under Turner, the Carolina Panthers ranked second in total play-action pass attempts with 165; Washington, playing 11 games under interim coach Bill Callahan's conservative approach, ranked 29th with 84 such plays. McLaurin caught 14 passes for 368 yards off play-action throws, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

With Turner, Washington will often use a two-back alignment, which could help create favorable situations for McLaurin on the outside. Plus, he and Haskins have a rapport, owing to their days together at Ohio State. In Weeks 15 and 16 last season, they connected on nine-of-11 throws for 187 yards. The other seven players who caught passes during that span combined for 207 yards.

During his time in Washington, McLaurin has peppered veterans for information. Last spring he asked cornerback Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie to critique his route running, then worked on those tips before camp. He paid attention to how running back Adrian Peterson worked out. This offseason, before talking to Beckham, McLaurin watched another older running back -- Frank Gore -- and noted his approach. McLaurin also talked often to former Washington tight end Vernon Davis.

"He gets it, man," Davis said. "That dude's on his way. He's going to be a force in this league for a long time."