Entering his fourth season in Washington, Ryan Grant has his best opportunity to date to have a big part in the offense after playing mostly a blocker role in 2016.
For three seasons, Washington Redskins wide receiver Ryan Grant played sparingly in the offense behind the likes of DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon and even Jamison Crowder.
But with Garçon and Jackson no longer on the Redskins' roster, Grant has the chance to finally get more reps in 2017.
"That's the big thing is opportunities," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "He needs opportunities. You can't produce very well at wideout if you don't get opportunities. Wide receivers moan about that all the time, 'Throw me the ball.' And poor Ryan doesn't moan about it, probably internally he does, but hopefully he'll get more opportunities."
In his opportunities over his first three NFL seasons, the 2014 fifth-round has recorded 39 receptions for 412 yards and two touchdowns – both coming during the 2015 season.
During that 2015 season, it appeared Grant was primed for a bigger role, as he recorded 23 receptions for 268 yards, most of which came when Jackson was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
In Washington's historic comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Grant recorded his first career touchdown catch.
Then in the regular season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, Grant recorded his second score of the year in a 34-23 victory.
Grant's production dipped during the 2016 season, though, as the Tulane product recorded just nine receptions for 76 yards as Washington utilized him more as a blocker with Garçon and Jackson the featured targets in the passing game.
"I think when Ryan had to come in here …and play behind a guy like DeSean and Pierre and have to earn his keep as a blocking receiver, he had to find a way to play special teams," said wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard. "He put on weight, you know, he got stronger, he did all the things that everybody asked him to do and then hopefully now it's just time to go out and show that he can actually play football."
The 26-year-old is now the longest tenured wide receiver on Washington's roster entering the 2017 season. Even with Garçon and Jackson gone, he'll still have to fight for playing time alongside the likes of Terrelle Pryor Sr., Josh Doctson and Maurice Harris among others.
In offseason workouts, Grant got significant play with the first-team offense working in the Z receiver role. Gruden, however, believes the six-foot, 204 pounder can play ever receiver position.
"The good thing about Ryan is that he can play all over the place," Gruden said. "We're mainly focusing on Josh [Doctson] at Z right now, see how he does. But Ryan can play all three spots, very good blocker, can do a little bit of everything."
Added Hilliard: "Ryan has an opportunity to play a little bit more of a significant role and we're going to count on him to do a lot of things. He can play all three, he can play smart, works hard, catches the ball, he's been productive as a starter, we've won games with him as a starter."