WASHINGTON — Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder is not sure what the coaching staff has in store for him in 2017. All he knows is that he will be ready for whatever is thrown his way.
Crowder and most of his teammates returned to Redskins Park on Monday for the start of voluntary offseason workouts. They can’t do any on-field drills for a few weeks yet, but just being around each other again means the 2017 season is drawing closer.
In truth, Crowder has been preparing for weeks. He trained near his offseason home in North Carolina and also spent time in Tampa Bay with quarterback Kirk Cousins and several other Redskins receivers and tight ends watching film and running routes under the watchful eye of ESPN analyst Jon Gruden.
There could be a big opportunity for Crowder, a fourth-round pick in 2015 who has quickly become one of the top slot receivers in the sport. He has 126 catches and nine touchdowns in two seasons. With DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon – two 1,000-yard, veteran wide receivers – departing via free agency, the opportunity is there to carve an even bigger role.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m taking over or anything,” Crowder said. “I’m just making sure that I’m doing my job and doing what I have to do to have an important role within the offense so we can get some wins.”
The Redskins hope they’ve filled the void by signing Terrelle Pryor, who himself topped 1,000 receiving yards last season with the Cleveland Browns. And 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson is hopeful he can put last year’s injury-plagued nightmare of a season behind him. There are still weapons on hand for Cousins.
“I mentioned losing DeSean and Pierre are going to hurt a little bit, but part of the reason I feel good is [Crowder],” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s a great player. He can play outside, he can play inside, obviously. His emergence has not surprised me. He’s always had a poise about him. Ever since he was a rookie he played like a 10-year vet. He’s just got that experience, that knowledge, this natural instinct for the position and this toughness you just can’t coach. He is going to be good. He is.”
Gruden envisions using Crowder more on the outside this season. He’s so versatile coaches can get carried away – especially early in his rookie season when they didn’t quite realize what they had yet.
“He’s fun to mess with,” Gruden said.
After a rash of wide receiver injuries during training camp in 2015, the Redskins were using Crowder all the time to simulate jet sweeps and option routes for the defense. Gruden counted up the repetitions after one day of practice and realized he was pushing his 5-foot-8, 182-pound rookie too hard. Sure enough, Crowder soon came up lame with a groin injury.
Crowder spent three days in Tampa with Cousins, Pryor, Doctson, tight end Jordan Reed and backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld. The players watched two-to-three hours of film with Gruden, who hosted a similar gathering the year before, and then worked outside running patterns with the quarterbacks.
At night they’d go out to dinner and get to know Pryor, their new teammate. That all happened less than three weeks after Jackson and Garcon left. For Crowder, it was the first sign that the predicted demise of the Redskins’ offense is off base.
“I feel like the offense can still be as explosive, if not more, than it was last year,” Crowder said.
The Redskins will conduct Phase One of their offseason work the rest of the month as players can work out at the team facility under the supervision of the strength and conditioning staff with limited time for classroom study with the coaches. It won’t be until next month that players can begin field work – and even then it won’t come in offense vs. defense settings until OTAs begin on May 23.
“It is really just getting reacquainted with everything and kind of refreshing yourself on the plays, working out with your teammates and just being in the building,” Crowder said. “It’s exciting to come back and see your teammates and get that feeling that football is right around the corner even though it is still a while away.”
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