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Redskins' passing game on fast track with Terry McLaurin

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Clay: McLaurin can be best fantasy rookie WR (1:05)

Mike Clay is high on Terry McLaurin and thinks he could be the best fantasy rookie wide receiver this season. (1:05)

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins rookie receiver Terry McLaurin sped past the secondary, catching one deep ball for a score and putting himself in position for another in the season opener. Now comes the hard part: Doing it again.

But McLaurin getting open -- and getting the Redskins' passing attack to click -- will be made much easier when tight end Jordan Reed returns. Reed missed the Week 1 game with a concussion suffered in the third preseason game. He remains limited in practice, but did increase his work from last week.

The Redskins remain optimistic about Reed playing against Dallas on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox). That would be good news for an offense already down its starting running back (Derrius Guice) and still missing holdout left tackle Trent Williams.

As for the passing game? McLaurin knows Reed's return will help: "The more weapons, the better."

And Reed will benefit from what McLaurin and the passing game showed in a 32-27 season-opening loss to the Eagles. Though the Redskins scored only one touchdown in the second half -- and not until six seconds remained -- the offense showed an ability to be explosive. That's not what many expected entering the season -- and it remains to be seen if it continues. If Washington wants to do anything this season, it will have to play a key role.

But having a deep threat such as McLaurin and an underneath threat such as Reed will benefit everyone on offense, especially against Dallas. The third-round pick caught five passes for 125 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles.

"It minimizes the ability to play single coverage," McLaurin said. "The Cowboys play a lot of man on third downs, so it's a lot of guys [they] have to account for. I played in a system at Ohio State where we had a lot of weapons. It really minimizes the ability to cover everybody single."

The Redskins need to have more than a strong half like in the opener -- quarterback Case Keenum threw for 257 yards in the opening two quarters -- to reach that stage. But they have optimism because of that half and Reed's possible return.

With Reed, the Redskins like to align three receivers to one side and Reed to the other. In the past, they have targeted Reed in those spots; defenses know this, too. But with McLaurin's speed -- he caught a 69-yarder for a score and was open for what should have been another long touchdown in the opener -- the Redskins can align the rookie inside in those sets and, if the middle is vacated because of attention paid to Reed, then they can find McLaurin.

"If a team wants to pack the box up and run some cover zero blitzes on us, you have to show you can beat the corners," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Terry did a great job of that."

The Redskins' play design helps as well, which will make it trickier for defenses to handle McLaurin and Reed. It also helps the other primary targets: running back Chris Thompson, slot receiver Trey Quinn and another speedy receiver in Paul Richardson.

Washington has done a good job since camp opened of creating space for its receivers. On an overthrown deep ball to McLaurin in the opener, for example, the Redskins sent Richardson in motion from right to left -- as if he might catch a bubble behind two receivers to that side. That prompted the Eagles safety to rotate out of the middle -- and that's where McLaurin capitalized. Keenum overthrew him, but the play -- and McLaurin's speed -- got him wide open.

The trick for a defense on that play: If the safety stays deep, it's an easy bubble pass to Richardson with two blockers on two defenders.

McLaurin's touchdown also came against man coverage. He said the passing game designed by Gruden and offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell does a good job of "window dressing."

"It gets the linebackers out of place, it gets the safeties' eyes moving and by the time the ball is snapped, you've got a fast guy running right by them," he said.

That's what Gruden hopes, too, when it comes to production.

"The beauty is when Jordan Reed comes back, they have other things to worry about as well," he said. "When you distribute the ball correctly and you add Adrian Peterson in the running game, it's hard to just concentrate on one guy and that's the intent of our offense."

Peterson, who was inactive for the opener, said there was one good thing about watching the game.

"I was able to watch and detail," he said. "Case looked awesome; the line did a great job in pass protection. But these young receivers ... man, these guys are explosive. They look really incredible. If you're able to add a balanced passing attack and running attack, we can be very explosive."