- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2019

ASHBURN — Terry McLaurin plans to watch the film of Washington’s 19-16 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday closer than any game of his young career so far. Standing by his locker Monday, the Redskins rookie receiver recalled how when lining up against Lions’ Pro Bowl cornerback Darrius Slay, he faced more press-man coverage than he had previously this season.

McLaurin said he needs to see what “tells” he could be giving to his opponent.

“He really made me work,” McLaurin said. “It was a chess match.”

It was a chess match, though, McLaurin got the better of it. Against the Lions, the 24-year-old finished with five catches for 72 yards — including 17-yarder that set up the game-winning kick from Dustin Hopkins.

For the Redskins, the most promising takeaway from Sunday’s win might have been seeing timely contributions from younger players on the roster. Beyond quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the Redskins got game-changing plays from McLaurin, kickoff specialist Steven Sims and linebacker Cole Holcomb. Sixth-round wideout Kelvin Harmon shined, leaping for a highlight-reel one-handed catch. Third-year cornerback Fabian Moreau had a career day, picking off Lions quarterback Jeff Driskel twice.

At 2-9, the Redskins have to identify players they believe can help contribute to their long-term future. They saw glimpses of that against the Lions.

“We have a young nucleus of guys on this team, and I feel like we’re all hungry just to earn a role, earn a spot on this organization, this team and provide in any way that we can,” McLaurin said. “We try to follow the old guys’ lead as leaders and we try to just make plays when they arise.

“But it’s very encouraging to have young guys, first few years in the league, trying to make plays when we need them.”

The Redskins have started to skew younger as this season goes on. On Sunday, 11 of the 20 offensive players to record at least one snap on offense were no older than 25. On defense, 13 of 20 players were 25 or younger.

Playing time is up for younger players too. The Redskins benched veteran cornerback Josh Norman and scaled back running back Adrian Peterson’s workload. 2018 second-rounder Derrius Guice led the team’s running backs with 26 snaps.

Defensively, the Redskins’ rookie class had its best outing. First-rounder Montez Sweat, who had been having a quiet season, had a sack and demonstrated his athleticism by batting down a pass at the line of scrimmage.

Holcomb was explosive. The fifth-rounder led Washington in tackles with 13 and recorded his first career sack. The 23-year-old also had two quarterback hits and forced a fumble.

“There are so many aspects where he can read, react,” interim coach Bill Callahan said. “He works hard, he’s diligent, studies, he’s intuitive. He has all the traits that you want out of a linebacker.”

As for Sims, the 22-year-old has progressed rapidly over the season. The Kansas product made the Redskins’ roster as an undrafted free agent, and has made impact plays when given the chance.

Against Detroit, he quickly recovered his bobbled catch of a Lions’ kick, then raced up the field for a 91-yard touchdown. Sims’ touchdown return was Washington’s first in four years.

“For a guy who came out of nowhere … he’s an amazing talent,” tackle Morgan Moses said.

The Redskins’ younger players are aware of the need to build something for the future. They talk about their potential even when they’re hanging out, McLaurin said. The wideout added they try to “speak it into existence.”

But at the same time, McLaurin said the group understands they have to put the work in to fulfill each of their expectations.

“We’re just all learning and progressing as we go,” McLaurin said. “We all know, and it’s no surprise that the young guys need to step up. And I felt like we took a big step forward on Sunday, and I feel like that can continue. … I feel like we can really get some great things going in the future.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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