In the aftermath of the momentous and grand victory over the Giants on Thursday night, I read a comment here on Hogs Haven that highlighted Adam Humphries’ contribution to the winning effort. I’m afraid I was dismissive of the comment as my most vivid memory of the game was Humphries dropping a fairly straightforward catch for a potential first-down on the final drive of the game.
When I re-watched the game on Friday night, I kept noticing plays — several of them pretty significant plays — made by Adam Humphries. For the past 18 hours or so, it’s been bothering me that I didn’t recognize what an important role the slot receiver was playing in the game when I saw it live.
He ended up with an interesting stat line — 8 targets with 7 catches for 44 yards. His longest gain was 12 yards and he scored no touchdowns.
Well, both the targets and receptions are fairly impressive numbers, though the overall stats pale in comparison to Terry McLaurin’s 11 for 107 yards and a TD, but box scores never tell the whole story.
I have to say, Humphries put in a performance that was much more impressive than his modest stat line indicates. Why didn’t I notice during the game?
I think that there may be a couple of reasons. Against the Chargers, Humphries had two catches for ten yards, and seemed to confirm that he was not an integral part of the 2021 offense.
March free agency
I was pretty excited about the signing of Humphries when it was announced back in March. I remembered him well from his time in Tampa Bay — especially his 2017 & 2018 seasons when he put up over 1,400 yards and scored 6 touchdowns with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his quarterback. This seemed like an ideal re-pairing of the two veterans.
I had written articles that highlighted Humphries twice in the 2019 offseason, both times identifying him as a free agent target I’d like to see the Redskins pursue. Here’s an excerpt from the second of the two articles, which I published in March, two years ago:
I highlighted Humphries in an article published at the end of January. I see him as one of the premier veteran free agent targets available this off-season. Here’s part of what I wrote back in January:
Spotrac estimates a projected 4 year, $41.7m contract for Humphries (APY $10.4m), which seems wildly high to me, but perhaps he’ll get it.
I’d be surprised if he gets it from the Redskins, who are probably not in a salary cap position to spend this kind of money on a young receiver who, while having played a very strong half-season to finish 2018, has yet to truly break out in the NFL.
A 2015 undrafted free agent out of Clemson, Humphries quietly shined in Tampa despite being overshadowed by veteran stars DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound slot man set career highs in 2018 with 76 receptions for 816 yards and five touchdowns. Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 32 WR among 117 qualifiers.
Humphries doubles as a special teams maven, able to return both kicks and punts. He notched 21 punt returns and two kick returns last season, and ran back a 109-yard kick-six during the preseason.
Striking while the iron’s hot in a weak free-agent class, Humphries reportedly is asking for $10-14 million annually on the open market.
If the Redskins could sign Humphries without destroying their salary cap position, I’d be pleased to see him added to the team. He’s just 25 years old, so it might be possible to give him a 4 or 5 year deal structured to provide a lower cap hit this season, while building the core talent for the future.
Humphries eventually signed for $9m per year with the Titans. I don’t watch much AFC football, and I promptly forgot about him.
Humphries went on to actually earn about $19.5m in two seasons with the Titans, but was cut after the 2020 season. He produced less than 600 yards for Tennessee in those two years. The problem wasn’t his game-by-game production, which was generally pretty consistent, but his lack of availability. Humphries missed 13 regular season games in those two seasons.
When I learned all this, and realized that Washington had signed Humphries to a one-year contract at just $1.2m, I adjusted my expectations. Clearly, this wasn’t the same guy that I had been so excited about two years ago when he was at the end of his rookie contract in Tampa Bay and looking to get paid. Instead, it seemed like Humphries was struggling to maintain relevance as an NFL receiver. I mentally downgraded him from “premium free agent” to “JAG looking to stay in NFL”.
Training camp, preseason and the opening week game against the Chargers all worked to reinforce my new conception of Humphries. He was okay, but nothing special.
I think that’s what blinded me to what he did against the Giants.
Let’s take a look at Adam’s game as a receiver on Thursday night, when he missed only one target that came his way.
2nd quarter touchdown drive
1st & 10 at 50
(2:24 - 2nd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Heinicke pass short left to A.Humphries pushed ob at NYG 38 for 12 yards (A.Jackson).
Facing 3 or 4 potential tacklers, Humphries makes a clean catch, breaks a tackle, spins, gets the first down plus two extra yards and gets out of bounds to stop the clock. Washington used all of its timeouts and scored with 00:21 on the clock on this drive, so this last part is actually pretty significant.
This was one of two important catches Humphries made on this go-ahead touchdown drive to end the first half.
1st & 10 at NYG 38
(2:05 - 2nd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Heinicke pass short right to A.Humphries ran ob at NYG 31 for 7 yards (D.Holmes).
The “turf monster” got Humphries here or he’d have likely picked up another couple of yards — maybe even the first down. I think the new field hadn’t recovered fully from Sunday’s Chargers game as multiple Washington players seemed to lose their footing in similar fashion on Sunday night. Again, even with his fall, Humphries had the presence of mind to get out of bounds (though the clock would have stopped anyway for the two-minute warning).
This play got Washington into Hopkins’ effective field goal range, which was an important consideration at the time.
3rd quarter field goal drive
2nd & 3 at WSH 32
(4:11 - 3rd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Heinicke pass incomplete deep right to A.Humphries (J.Bradberry). PENALTY on NYG-J.Bradberry, Defensive Pass Interference, 21 yards, enforced at WAS 32 - No Play.
This play doesn’t show up on the stat sheet because of the penalty, but it improved Washington’s field position by 21 yards, moving the team across midfield.
This is the sort of contribution that gets hidden by box scores.
1st & 10 at NYG 47
(4:05 - 3rd) (Shotgun) T.Heinicke pass short right to A.Humphries pushed ob at NYG 39 for 8 yards (B.Martinez).
The very next play. It’s a simple check down, but it’s good for eight yards that help keep the momentum going.
3rd & 7 at NYG 22
(2:30 - 3rd) (Shotgun) T.Heinicke pass short middle to A.Humphries to NYG 16 for 6 yards (D.Holmes) [B.Martinez]. PENALTY on WAS-S.Cosmi, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at NYG 22 - No Play.
This play was negated by a holding call in the offensive line, meaning that it is another solid play that doesn’t show up in the box score. While he fails to achieve the line to gain (technically a mistake on third down), this play, had it stood, would have set the offense up with 4th and inches at around New York’s 15 yard line, and might well have led to 7 points instead of the eventual field goal.
4th quarter field goal drive
1st & 10 at NYG 45
(11:51 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Heinicke pass short left to A.Humphries to NYG 45 for no gain (D.Holmes).
I’m not gonna spend time making a GIF of this play. It was a screen pass to the left that had no chance. Logan Thomas failed to make an effective block, so his man got a hand on Humphries right away, and two other defenders got in on the tackle.
2nd & 10 at NYG 45 (grass top catch)
(11:26 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Heinicke pass short left to A.Humphries to NYG 42 for 3 yards (O.Ximines).
On the next snap, Scott Turner came back with effectively the same play called from a slightly different formation (he moved a receiver to the right side of the formation, probably to move defensive backs away from the screen side). This time, the ball slips out of Heinicke’s hand, fluttering like a wounded duck. Nine times out of ten, that’s an incomplete pass, but Humphries gets his hands under and manages to fall forward with control of the ball for a 3-yard gain.
Ultimately, this didn’t turn out to be a crucial play. The drive was extended by a defensive holding penalty on the next play, but this is a really good effort by the slot receiver to bail out his quarterback on an ugly pass, and make something out of nothing.
3rd & 10 at NYG 26
(9:31 - 4th) (Shotgun) T.Heinicke pass short right to A.Humphries to NYG 19 for 7 yards (D.Holmes).
This play doesn’t look like much — it’s just a check down from Taylor Heinicke — but Humphries probably got as much as could be expected on the play, and he secured the ball.
The contribution he made with this catch was to move the field goal attempt (which was the next play) from the edge of Dustin Hopkins’ butt-puckering limit at 44 yards to a comfortable 37-yard attempt, which Hopkins made without drama.
Game-winning field goal drive
2nd & 8 at WSH 27
(1:41 - 4th) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Heinicke pass incomplete short right to A.Humphries.
This was Humphries’ only bad play as a targeted receiver on Thursday night, and it came at a critical time, as Washington was trying to drive into field goal range in the final two minutes of the game.
On 2nd and 8, Heinicke throws the ball to his slot receiver 12 yards downfield for what should be a first down. The ball hits the leaping Humphries in the hands just above the crown of his helmet and bounces away for an incompletion.
It’s true that Humphries was about to get sandwiched between two defenders, but this is the type of catch that slot receivers are expected to make in the NFL.
Fortunately, J.D. McKissic kept the drive alive on the next two plays with a 7 yard reception on 3rd down, and a 4 yard run on 4th & 1.
Humphries’ chance at redemption would come five plays later. Fittingly, perhaps, he was able to make up for McKissic’s failure to haul in a tough catch on 1st & 10 with 00:39 to play.
3rd & 5 at NYG 43
(0:28 - 4th) (Shotgun) T.Heinicke pass short right to A.Humphries pushed ob at NYG 36 for 7 yards (D.Holmes).
This was a huge play, and had almost as much to do with Washington’s eventual victory as Dexter Lawrence’s offsides penalty that occurred three plays later.
It was 3rd & 5, and Washington was out of timeouts. They were out of realistic field goal range. If they failed to convert the first down, Heinicke wouldn’t be able to spike the ball on 4th down. With time running out, the team had two plays (maximum) to get a first down; they needed to be able to stop the clock, and they needed to get inside Dustin Hopkins’ field goal range.
On this play, Humphries catches the ball, gains 7 yards, and goes out of bounds — achieving two of the three critical goals: he got the first down and he stopped the clock, setting up a potential game-winning scenario.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Adam Humphries was a solid steel stud on Thursday night. I didn’t realize it immediately, but I should have.
I’m looking forward to seeing what other magic the veteran receiver can pull off in the balance of the 2021 season.