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Saturday’s scrimmage has people talking about Marken Michel again

The 29-year-old receiver is still trying to achieve his NFL breakthrough

Washington Commanders Off-Season Workout Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Marken Michel is a player who has made almost no impression on me during his tenure in Washington. I have a hard time remembering that he is on the 91-man roster, even though he spent almost the entire 2021 season on the Washington Football Team practice squad. He may be better known for being Sony Michel’s older brother than for anything he has accomplished thus far on an NFL football field.

But really, that’s not fair. Michel is a guy who has worked hard for years in the NFL and has enjoyed some success as a professional football player. Could he be poised to finally parlay all that hard work and experience into a roster spot with the Commanders?

Previous professional experience

Michel is a former Carolina Panther, but his stint with the team was in 2020, when Ron Rivera was in Washington. He spent his rookie season (2016) in Minnesota, however, with the current Commanders offensive coordinator Scott Turner, which may explain why he has been in Washington since September last year.

Marken went to Canada for the 2017 season, and did well, accumulating 780 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Calgary Stampeders in just 13 games. He returned to Calgary in the ‘18 season, but ended up on injured reserve with a broken collarbone.

Here’s a taste of Michel’s days as a Stampeder:

The receiver spent the 2019 season on the Eagles practice squad, and had a cup of coffee with the Eagles during last year’s training camp before joining the Washington team.

As far as I can tell, Michel has only ever played 3 NFL regular season offensive snaps (with Carolina in 2020), but he has been getting attention from Washington DC’s local media during training camp. For one thing, he is almost always the first player onto the practice field each day — a habit that goes back a long way:

There have been a number of positive reports on Michel from OTAs, minicamp and training camp this offseason, but, prior to yesterday, they’d all been a bit general, mostly suggesting that he ‘looked good’ or that he was ‘ballin’.

Because Michel spent the 2019 season with the Eagles, then went to Carolina in 2020 and returned to Philly for last year’s training camp, there’s a bit to be learned from those two stints with Philly by assessing the reaction to his return in ‘21. Here are snippets from Bleeding Green Nation and the Eagles team website from when Howie Roseman claimed Michel off waivers last offseason, followed by a couple of tweets:

The Eagles added a familiar face at wide receiver on Tuesday when they claimed Marken Michel off waivers from the Carolina Panthers.

The 5-11, 190-pound Michel was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2019 after he caught four passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in the preseason. Last season, Michel spent the year on the Panthers’ practice squad, getting called up to play in two games.

He flashed in the preseason with a 75-yard touchdown reception on a Nate Sudfeld throw:

It appears as if Marken Michel did enough in the ‘19 preaseason to get Eagles fans interested in his potential, but ultimately, not enough to make the 53-man roster.

The Saturday night scrimmage at FedEx Field

At the FedEx Field scrimmage on Saturday night, Michel was once again making people sit up and take notice.

Could it be that Marken Michel will be the guy that will have fans looking for an extra receiver to make the roster at final cutdowns just because he’s been so damned exciting in the offseason?

Do we have a new favorite in the Mason-Brennan betting?

Thoughts from the Captain

Well, offensive captain and $71m-man Terry McLaurin seems to be a fan. Here’s what he had to say about his teammate on Saturday night:

Since Marken got here last season, he’s been a guy who I don’t even think has missed a practice.

That’s a guy who really knows how to get open and separate. He can play in the slot. He can play in both outside positions. I think he can really have a chance to help us this year. I think it’ll be really cool to see him out in the preseason doing his thing.

He’s really confident in his ball skills and when he runs his routes. I think he’s a very versatile piece and it’s fun going out there with a guy who likes to have fun playing football and is just looking to make an impact.

Those are the kinds of guys that find their way on the team and find a way to make an impact. They’re so available and ready to make plays whenever they have the opportunity.

Michel’s prospects for 2022

It appears as if the 29-year-old Marken Michel, having made an impact in Canada, but having toiled for 4 seasons as a practice squad player with 4 different teams without quite breaking through, is still able to excite NFL fans in the leadup to the season.

Physically, Michel is similar in size to Curtis Samuel, Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, which may work against him as long as all three are healthy, but which could make him a handy replacement if one of them were to go down with an injury.

Michel doesn’t have the speed of those receivers, but he is enough of an athlete to have played two years in the CFL and to have hung around NFL practice squads for 4 seasons.

Michel would need to look very good in the preseason to break into the Commanders’ lineup. At this point, the roster “locks” appear to be McLaurin, Dotson and Samuel, with Dyami Brown as a nearly-sure thing.

That would leave between 1 and 3 more roster spots. It seems like Cam Sims would be the favorite to slip into the 5th spot in the room.

After that, the competition for a likely 6th receiver spot seems to come down to Michel, Alex Erickson, Dax Milne, Kelvin Harmon, and Jequez Ezzard. Special teams ability, and specifically the ability to return punts, may be the deciding factor here, and that seems to cut against Michel, whose name has not shown up this offseason as one of the returners. Ericsson, Milne and Ezzard, on the other hand, have all been reported to be getting work at the returner position.

Marken Michel has a reputation as something of a preseason hero, so the strong performance durnig Saturday night’s scrimmage may be just a hint of more excitement to come in the Commanders’ 3 preseason games, which begin with a home game against his former team, the Panthers, on Saturday the 13th at 1:00 at FedEx Field.

Keep your eye out for No. 19 during the game; he may just be ready to finally break out.