The 2019 season was full of disappointment for fans of Washington, but one bright spot was Steven Sims. The team went 3-13, fired their head coach, and appeared unmotivated all year long. Despite their struggles, they had one of the more talented draft classes of any team in the league.
First-round pick Dwayne Haskins struggled early on. The Ohio State product was viewed as a raw project with upside when he was selected. He did progress as the season went on, with his two best games coming at the end. In those two final games, Haskins completed 31 of his 41 passes (72%) for 394 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Terry McLaurin finished second among rookies in receiving yards (919) despite missing two games. Cole Holcomb and Montez Sweat also had solid rookie seasons. However, the real surprise of the year was undrafted free agent Steven Sims out of Kansas. Sims landed with Washington and surprised many fans when he made the 53-man roster after a strong preseason.
Transitioning To The League
Sims had a slow opening month of September. He only saw playing time on offense in two of the four games. He was merely a depth piece early on with just 8% and 9% of the snaps against Dallas and Chicago. In those four games, he caught all three of his targets for 27 yards, ran the ball three times for 16 yards, and returned nine kicks for 205 yards (22.8 average).
In week five against the Patriots, the speedy receiver saw an increase in playing time. He was on the field for 58% of the snaps and caught two passes for one yard. Sims would score his first career touchdown on a jet sweep, breaking several tackles on his way to a 65-yard touchdown. That one play forecasted what was still to come later in the season.
The next seven games for the former Jayhawk were nothing to write home about. Over that stretch, Sims caught nine of his 14 targets for a mere 52 yards. He would also add 461 yards on 17 attempts (27.1 per return), and scored his first kick-return touchdown and second career touchdown.
Finally His Time To Shine
After three months of developing and acclimating to the speed of the NFL game, he was finally ready to showcase his potential. Sims caught 20 of his 36 targets in December, for 230 yards and four touchdowns. He was the most-targeted receiver for Washington over each of the final four games, with a 16-game pace of 80 receptions on 144 targets for 920 yards and 16 touchdowns. Of course, that is only a four-game sample, but that is when he finally started playing the majority of the snaps and started to gel with his rookie quarterback.
With another year under his belt and the continued progression of Dwayne Haskins, Sims is primed to not only showcase his skills but have the necessary playing time to do so. Washington loses 163 of its 465 targets from 2019 (35%) with the departures of Paul Richardson and Chris Thompson, along with the absence of Kelvin Harmon (ACL tear) and retirement of Vernon Davis. Rookies Antonio Gibson and Antonio Gandy-Golden will see a sizable portion of those targets, but not 80 apiece.
What Has Changed?
The offense was one of the more predictable and boring units in the league in 2019. The team threw the ball on only 59.8% of their plays last season (17th-most) while trailing much more often than not. The team also ranked dead last in time-of-possession. In 2019, Carolina had the fourth-highest percentage of pass plays in the NFL, and that regime is now in Washington.
This will be a new, rejuvenated offense, with an entirely different coaching staff. Expect to see an improved Dwayne Haskins and a better version of Terry McLaurin. But do not underestimate Steven Sims. 2020 is the year Steven Sims is more than just an under-the-radar name. This is the year he takes a massive leap forward as a full-time starter for the first time in his young career.