Steven Sims was candid about his performance in 2020; it was not up to his level of expectations.
"This year, we're wiping all that away," Sims told reporters after practice. "It's a new year moving forward. I worked all offseason focusing on things."
Standing out is easier said than done with this iteration of Washington's receiver corps with the likes of Terry McLaurin, Adam Humphries and Dyami Brown on the roster. It's a stark contrast from what Washington had on the field last year, when McLaurin was routinely the only drafted wideout in the lineup.
But the group is just as full of talented players outside of the top options, and Sims is part of the reason why that's the case. As more opportunities for evaluation come every day, Sims is eager to show off the work he's put in to improve.
"I've been taking it back to the basics," Sims said. "Just trying to make this roster, whether it's the sixth man in the receiving room or the fourth man. Whatever it is, it doesn't matter to me."
Sims quickly became a fan favorite for the way he played as an undrafted free agent in 2019 from the moment he scored his first touchdown against the Patriots. The hopes were high for him after he caught 34 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns, but while he did increase his catch rate by nearly 13%, his overall receiving yards total did take a dip to 265 yards. He doesn't feel any added pressure this year, but knew he needed to play at a higher level.
Sims knows the easiest way for him to do that. He needs to make plays and take advantage of the opportunities that come his way and catch the ball when the quarterbacks are looking his way. He's been catching "at least 200" balls after practice, he said, and has been continuing to work on his releases.
"You have to work on those things a lot," Sims said. "Every time you go out and run routes, you're working on your releases. That's just part of the game. You have to get separation against man coverage. That's the NFL."
Sims' versatility has one of his biggest strengths, and that's because he tries to learn from receivers with different skillsets, whether they have a 5-foot-10, 190-pound from like him or are one of the bigger wideouts in the league. He looks at their breaks in routes, how they release on defensive backs and any other details, because his size allows him to copy those mechanics.
For what it's worth, Scott Turner and the coaches are putting him in different roles so he can use those skills to his advantage. He's taken reps in the slot, where he took the overwhelming majority of his snaps in 2020, but he's also worked as an outside receiver as well.
"That's what comes with the offense," Sims said. "If the coach moves you inside or outside, you have to be ready for the task. Step up, and the opportunity comes, you gotta be ready."
Sims got multiple targets during Wednesday's practice and made three impressive receptions that showed off his ability with the ball in his hands. The best of them came near the start of practice, when he made a catch over the middle, made a move on Cole Luke and sprinted to the end zone. The other two, which came during different situational drills, showed how he still has the speed to get yards after the catch.
It's clear that Sims has been putting in the work, and Ron Rivera has taken notice.
"When you watch a guy like Steven perform the way he is and has lately you do see the jump," Rivera said, "So that's a huge step and it's part of our judging and watching and grading as these guys go through."
It isn't Sims' job to worry about the roster decision. His main concern is to make a case that he deserves a spot. And so far, he's making a convincing one.
"You know what to expect out of one-five," Sims said.