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Redskins' Crowder letting instincts take over on punt returns

Redskins' Crowder letting instincts take over on punt returns

In 2015 Jamison Crowder had an impressive debut season as the Redskins’ slot receiver. His 59 receptions broke the team record for a rookie receiver, one that was held by Hall of Fame receiver Art Monk. The fourth-round pick out of Duke was entrenched as a key contributor on offense by midseason.

Crowder also had duties as the team’s punt returner. In this area he was not nearly as productive. He had 30 returns and he averaged 5.3 yards per return. That was the lowest average in the league among players with enough returns to qualify.

Fast forward to this season. Crowder is keep up his good work as a receiver; he’s on pace to catch 67 passes. But his production as a punt returner has improved exponentially. He is averaging 27.7 yards per return. In 2015 his longest return was 16 yards. This year in five games he already has surpassed that on four returns. Crowder has taken puts back for 17, 21, 50, and 85 yards. The last one, of course, went for a touchdown against the Ravens and earned him NFC special teams player of the week honors.

Related: Key to the game—Redskins need to slow Eagles' sack attack

The TD return came in a game the Redskins won by six points. The 50-yarder was against the Giants and it set up a field goal in a game that the Redskins won by two. One could make the case that they don’t win either of those games in years past.

So what is the difference between this year and last year?

“Obviously they’re going a really good job of blocking compared to last year,” said Crowder. “And this year I just approached it a little differently. Last year I was more catching it and trying to see where I wanted to go but now I’m just catching it and going. They’re doing a really good job of blocking and getting on guys and opening up lanes I can run through.”

He said that he is used to the speed of the NFL game now and that allows him to use his instincts rather than thinking when he catches the ball.

Related: Fuller will remain as nickel corner

It’s doubtful that Crowder will keep up his average of 27.7 yards per return. Since 1962 the highest average among qualifying returners is 18.8 by Lemar Parrish of the Bengals in 1974. More recently, Leodis McKelvin of the Bills averaged 18.7 per return in 2012.

But if he gets a few more long returns he could threaten the team record held by Dick Todd, who averaged 17.0 yards in 1941. The post-merger team record is 14.1 held by Brian Mitchell in 1994.

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

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