Extra homework put Maurice Harris in the NFL and helped turn him into the Washington Redskins’ most versatile wide receiver. The 6-foot-3 target is coming off the best game of his professional career, and recognizes a higher force lent a hand.
The third-year receiver hauled in 10 receptions on 12 targets in the Redskins’ Week 9 loss. He led Washington with 124 yards against the Falcons after never reaching 100 yards overall in either of his two seasons. Partly because the Redskins lost 38-14 and mostly due to his humble nature, Harris downplayed the performance.
When it came to praising the primary tools of his trade, Harris looked down at his blessed mitts and smiled.
“God just blessed me with good hands and the ability to catch,” he told NBC Sports Washington following Wednesday’s practice.
No extra credit is awarded for degree of difficulty. Bummer considering the frequency of his highlight-reel worthy receptions. Harris’s one-handed touchdown catch in his first game up from the practice squad in 2017 was arguably the team’s grab of the year. Let Harris get even a little finger on a thrown football, and the magic begins.
Mo Harris, first game off the practice squad, pulls in an amazing catch. Looks like a TD to me pic.twitter.com/Y1PqMNalDJ— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) November 12, 2017
“Probably some of the best set of hands I’ve seen on a receiver,” receiver-turned-cornerback Quinton Dunbar told NBC Sports Washington about Harris. “Some guys just have them hands that catch everything. He’s definitely one of those guys that just catches everything that touches his hands.”
The trickiest part for Harris involved opportunity. Despite his impressive hands, size and vertical leap, it’s been a slow rise up through the Redskins depth chart.
He began offseason activities part of the uncertain mass behind Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson and Josh Doctson. Harris quickly broke from the pack during the summer in part because of his ability to play all three wide receiver positions. Then a concussion sidelined him through much of the preseason and the first two games of the regular season. His first catch came in Week 5. Entering Sunday, his stat line read 11 receptions for 102 yards. He virtually doubled those numbers against the Falcons.
“Mo has always been a consistent player for us,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Not the fastest guy in the world, but he runs excellent routes. He's a quarterback-friendly guy. Knows how to work in zone. [Has] the quickness to separate man-to-man, so he's a great option for us right now."
That ability to play all over the field helps Washington’s current situation. Harris filled in for Crowder in recent weeks as the slot receiver recovers from an ankle injury. With Richardson (shoulder surgery) landing on injured reserve this week, Harris likely inherits the outside Z-receiver role. That’s assuming Crowder goes Sunday at Tampa Bay. Otherwise, Gruden might keep Harris inside.
Harris must prepare for both scenarios. He’ll do that and study up on Josh Doctson's “X” role just in case. This detailed work helped put the undrafted free agent in the league
“I just try to know everything. Be available for any spot,” Harris told NBC Sports Washington. “Whenever we install (a weekly game plan) I try to learn every position, so I have that availability.”
Some suggest the best ability for an NFL player is availability. With injuries wrecking Washington’s offense including their skill position players, an opportunity exists for Harris to carve out a steady role. He took advantage last week. The next chance comes against the league’s 30th ranked pass defense. Harris doesn't know where he’ll line up. Whether inside or outside, he and his magic hands will be ready.
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