Jamison Crowder stands out at Redskins’ rookie minicamp

As a three-year starter at Duke, Jamison Crowder turned 283 catches into 3,641 yards and 23 touchdowns. 

Charles LeClaire/Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

When the Washington Redskins selected wide receiver Jamison Crowder with the No. 105 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, they knew they weren’t getting an athletic freak. Crowder’s disappointing mix of size and straight-line speed was the reason he was available where the Redskins selected him. There are different ways to win at the NFL level, and Crowder wins with a combination of quickness, lateral explosion, precise route running and strong hands.

Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan described Crowders’ route-running ability as “excellent”, and there’s a mental aspect to getting open that he possesses.

"That’s one thing that really helps me out," Crowder told Pat Donohue of Pressbox D.C. "I try to pay attention to details, and I try to be as sharp as I can in my route running."

Route recognition is key for a wide receiver who makes his living by winning in the slot. Crowder can benefit from understanding the defensive coverage at a high level, but there’s no greater edge a receiver can gain than mastering his own playbook. Crowder is one step ahead of the game in that regard.

"A few of us came in [to rookie minicamp] a little early, so we were able to get a little jump on the playbook," Crowder said. "It hasn’t been too bad. It’s still all new to me, but I feel like I’m picking it up pretty well."

Crowder was very impressive at the Redskins’ rookie minicamp this past weekend. His attention to detail stood out to Redskins head coach Jay Gruden.

"Right now, he’s showing that he can take what we’re teaching him in the classroom and translate it effortlessly to the playing field," Gruden said. "He’s got good, strong hands, and obviously, based on what we saw on the college tape, we know going across the middle that he’s got no fear. … He’s got all the traits we want in a slot receiver, and obviously, he’s a heck of a punt returner."

What Gruden and the Redskins’ front office saw on tape was a wide receiver juggling several pro-style concepts that are foreign to most NCAA programs. At Duke, under head coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils ran a complicated offensive scheme. Cutcliffe has experience working with the Manning brothers and he is largely credited with turning Duke’s football program around. Crowder did not hesitate to give credit where credit is due.

"Knowing what everyone has to do — that was something that we had to learn at Duke –not just knowing your certain position, but knowing everybody across the board," Crowder said. "And at the next level, I already know that’s what you have to do. So playing in [Cutcliffe’s] system has really helped me out to this point."

Crowder may not have the size and speed combination of an outside wide receiver who projects as a consistent vertical threat, but the NFL Combine wasn’t a complete bust for him. He showed off his explosion with a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-3 broad jump. These are strong numbers in relation to his class, and they translate well to the slot receiver role that relies on explosive cuts in and out of breaks to create separation.

Crowder’s fastest path to playing time on offense is in the slot. In 2014, Andre Roberts worked as the Redskins slot receiver, but he caught just 38-of-68 targets for 453 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, he led all slot receivers with seven drops. Some of his production can be blamed on poor quarterback play, but he failed to fulfill his role as a safety valve. Although Roberts signed a four-year contract in 2014, the Redskins hired McCloughan to be their general manager in 2015. If Roberts continues to struggle, it is unlikely that the coaching staff keeps him as the starting slot based solely on the contract he signed.

Like every other rookie, Crowder wants to start right away. However, the humbled wide receiver understands the game and has no playing time expectations heading into his rookie year.

"I just want to get on the field and play and display my talents and abilities," Crowder said. "If it’s getting out there on special teams, I’ll do that. That’s something I had great success with in college, and I want to translate that to the next level. And from the wide receiver position, I want to learn from the older guys and get as much playing time as possible and be a weapon and a threat."

The buzz continues to build for Crowder, and you can expect to hear his name a lot as we make our way through minicamps, OTAs and eventually training camp. Noting will be handed to him, but it seems likely that Crowder will have the opportunity to earn the starting slot wide receiver role in his first season.

(h/t Pressbox D.C.)

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports