Curtis Samuel seems to be the perfect cure for what has been ailing the Washington Football Team receiving corps of late. He adds excellent speed to a group that has not been very fast. He can run any pattern, and can take handoffs out of the backfield, which would seem to make him an idea fit for a creative play-caller like Scott Turner. He is just 25 years old, and has seen his productivity steadily improve throughout his four-year career.
Just the thing for a playoff team that needs some help at receiver, right? Except Samuel hasn’t played yet for Washington and his lingering injury remains a cause for concern.
I hate to do this as the season is just dawning, but I think it’s wise to recall the cautionary tale of Jerry Porter and the 2008 Jacksonville Jaguars.
Like the Washington Football Team in 2021, Jacksonville was coming off a successful 2007 season, which saw them make the playoffs. And like the Washington Football Team, the Jags were mildly dissatisfied with their receiving corps in 2007. They had a serviceable quick guy in Dennis Northcut, and a trio of bigger wideouts in Ernest Wilford, Matt Jones, and Reggie Williams. Williams flashed real big play potential in limited opportunities, but none of their receivers really stood out. QB David Gerrard threw a lot of balls to running back Maurice Jones-Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis.
Enter Jerry Porter.
Porter, who grew up in Washington, DC and played football at Coolidge High, had been with the (then) Oakland Raiders his entire career when Jacksonville signed him to a six-year, 30 million dollar contract before the 2008 season. Though he had never put up huge numbers, he had been a reliable threat in three of his previous four season in Oakland. (One season was cut short by injury.) The sixteen yards-per-catch he posted in 2007 had been a career best.
Oakland allowed Wilford to depart via free agency, and the thought was that Porter could step right in a provide an upgrade as a downfield threat. With the emerging Williams, and the untapped potential of the athletic Jones, Jacksonville saw big things coming from their receivers.
Long story short – it never happened. Williams never built on the promise of 2007, and though Jones did indeed step up, he never lived up to his first-round draft status. And Porter – well, he had surgery to repair his hamstring in the offseason and never really came back. He barely played the entire season, catching just eleven balls. He was cut after the season, and his NFL career was over.
Jacksonville, a playoff team in 2007, fell to 5-11.
Now, there were plenty of other reasons for Jacksonville’s decline in 2008. Injuries decimated their offensive line. Stud running back Fred Taylor’s career was winding down. And a defense that had been among the best in the league in 2007, turned mediocre. You can’t pin any of that on Jerry Porter.
But it bears remembering. No savior is a sure thing.
Curtis Samuel is four years younger than Porter was in 2008, and that is a lifetime in the career of a receiver. It is highly likely that he will come back and be a contributor for the Washington Football team this season.
And Ron Rivera seems to be taking things slowly with Samuel. Rivera, for all his “Riverboat Ron” persona, has proven to be a cautious leader when it comes to safeguarding the franchise’s future.
Maybe most importantly, the burden of improving wide receiver production is not falling on Curtis Samuel alone. He is one of five new wideouts on the roster this season. Three of the four tight ends are also newcomers. In time, Dyami Brown profiles to be more of a classic Z receiver to Terry McLaurin’s X. Samuel’s absence opens the door for Brown, as well as for Adam Humphries, Dax Milne, and DeAndre Carter to all step up.
Jacksonville didn’t have all that new blood in 2008. All they really had was Jerry Porter. And Jerry Porter was a swing and a miss.