Ron Rivera is getting an improved Curtis Samuel in Washington

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Ethan Cadeaux
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Ron Rivera is getting an improved Curtis Samuel in Washington originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Football Team's free-agent addition of wide receiver Curtis Samuel makes plenty of sense for numerous reasons.

For starters, Samuel is one of the most versatile offensive weapons across the entire NFL, a perfect fit for the offense that coordinator Scott Turner wants to run.

Secondly, joining Washington means getting to play alongside Terry McLaurin, Samuel's close friend and former teammate at Ohio State. After all, the two talked about playing together professionally since they lived in the freshman dorms together.

But, there's also the most obvious reason: Washington's coaching staff is plenty familiar with Samuel. The 24-year-old was drafted by Ron Rivera in Carolina and spent the first three seasons of his career playing under the current Washington boss. Turner was also part of that Panthers staff, too.

But, as Rivera and Turner get set to reunite with Samuel in Washington, the two coaches are getting a different, yet better player than the one they left in Carolina over one year ago. 

"I for sure feel like I’m a much better player, a much more mature player," Samuel said on Friday, speaking to the local media for the first time since signing with Washington.

"I think things are going to be the same, but a little bit different. I feel like I’m going to have much more opportunities in this offense. I’m excited for it."

During his first three seasons with Carolina, Samuel still was a difference-maker but had yet to truly reach his potential. The 2019 season -- Rivera's final one in Carolina -- was when Samuel first really became a problem for opposing defenses.

In 2020, though, Samuel took the next step as a pass-catcher. Moving primarily from the outside to the slot, Samuel set career highs in receptions (77) and receiving yards (851).

"My main thing coming in last year off the season I had before was just catching 1,000 balls," Samuel said. "Just catching different angles, different positions, pushing my body in different movements, putting things in front of my face so I can’t see. Just trying to do different things to adjust to playing wide receiver, I felt like that helped pretty much going into the season that I had."

But in Washington, Samuel likely won't be limited to the slot. He doesn't want to be, either.

"Pretty much no matter where you put me, I’m going to go out there and make plays," Samuel said. "Playing in the slot is a little different from playing outside because you’ve got a little a little bit more wiggle room, you can be a little bit more patient. It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m excited for this offense and where we’re going to go."

With all-world running back Christian McCaffrey sidelined for most of the season in 2020, Samuel took on a bigger role in the backfield, too, rushing for 200 yards on 41 carries.

Regardless of where he lined up, defenses had to account for No. 10 at all times.

"I was fortunate enough that my offensive coordinator, my quarterback and a lot of my teammates wanted to put the ball in my hands," Samuel said. "My mindset each and every play is the more plays I make, the more the team is going to want to give me the ball."

With the Panthers last season, Samuel said Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady did a great job "utilizing his speed." 

Back in Turner's offense once again, Samuel is excited to see how Washington's offensive coordinator will use him. 

"It’s going to be exciting. I’m looking to stretch the field," Samuel said. "I’m just doing a lot of those things to be a creative piece in this offense and just help this offense going forward."