Yes, the Redskins were able to get bigger wide receivers as Jay Gruden hoped for in 2017. But Jamison Crowder remains an important part of restructured passing attack.
While the Washington Redskins' receiving corps has gotten considerably bigger in recent weeks with the signing of free agents Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Brian Quick, head coach Jay Gruden understands that the team's most productive returning wide receiver is the one under six-feet tall.
Over the course of his first two seasons with the Redskins, Jamison Crowder – a fourth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft – has recorded 126 receptions.
That's the second highest total by a member of the Redskins in the first two years of an NFL career, trailing out Gary Clark, who had 146 receptions combined in the 1985-86 seasons.
Gruden said at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix this week that he hasn't been surprised by Crowder's early success and expects it to continue as the third-year Duke product takes on a larger role in 2017.
"Losing Desean [Jackson] and Pierre [Garçon] are going to hurt a little bit but part of the reason I feel good is him," Gruden said of Crowder. "He's a great player. He can play outside [and] he can play inside, obviously. But no his emergence has not surprised me."
One of the more astonishing aspects to Crowder's early emergence was just how poised he was a mid-round rookie.
Even at the team's 2015 training camp at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va., Crowder looked at ease facing defensive backs with years of NFL experience.
"Ever since he was a rookie he played like a 10-year vet," Gruden said. "He's just got that experience, that knowledge, this natural instinct for the position and this toughness you just can coach. He is going to be good, he is."
The key for Washington now in terms of usage for Crowder will be how they occasionally get him breaks.
Check out the top images from the 2016 season of WR Jamison Crowder.
Not only did he appear on nearly 800 offensive snaps during the 2016 season, he also served as the team's primary punt returner, earning a Pro Bowl alternate selection.
He finished the season with a 12.1-yard punt return average, the best by a member of the Redskins since 2001. Additionally, his 85-yard punt return against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5 was the team's first in 124 regular season games dating back to 2008.
"I think practice-wise, yes, we have to watch what we do with him because he's fun to mess with," Gruden said. "You give him some jet sweeps, 'Ok Jamison, get in here we need you to walk this option rout over here. Hey Jamison, come over.' We have to monitor that. I think that happened his rookie year we had some injuries in training camp.
"I think Desean was banged up a little bit, he took on a lot. At the end of one day I was counting the reps and I said we need to give him a break and sure enough we gave him a break. And then the next day he had a little groin issue so we had to monitor him in training camp. He's a guy that will take them all if you let him."
And even though the 5-foot-8 wideout is significantly smaller than Pryor (6-foot-4), Quick (6-foot-3) and 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson (6-foot-2), their size will actually benefit Crowder.
"When you have 6-foot-5, 6-foot-3 with a guy that has a 40-inch vertical, then you throw Crowder in there [that's] a great change of direction," Gruden said.