Although Jamison Crowder is listed at just 5 foot 8, the fourth round draft pick could make a huge impact next season if he’s able to produce as the Redskins’ punt returner.
Crowder returned a total of 47 punts the past two seasons as Duke and averaged 14.5 yards per attempt. He also scored four touchdowns, including an electrifying 68-yarder in the Sun Bowl last December.
“I feel like I can help out in multiple ways,” said Crowder, who also eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving each of the past three seasons for the Blue Devils. “For one, I can come in and be the return man, punt return guy and be able to help set up the offense with good field position, score touchdowns. Otherwise, [I can] come in and be a good slot receiver as well. I can come in and make plays, and do whatever is necessary to help the team win.”
The Redskins are deep at wide receiver with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon and Andre Roberts currently occupying spots 1-3 on the depth chart. Crowder might be able to join that mix as a rookie, but his best opportunity to make an impact early in his NFL career could be at punt returner because, well, the Redskins need a productive one.
Roberts got off to a decent start as the punt returner in 2014 but his effectiveness slipped down the stretch as the team slogged to a 1-7 finish. He finished tied for 19th, averaging 7.4 yards per return.
This offseason, Crowder figures to find himself in a competition with Roberts and possibly running back Chris Thompson, who returned seven punts for 36 yards in 2013.
Crowder describes himself and decisive and elusive as a returner.
“The main things I always work on are just the little things,” Crowder said. “Making sure I deal with the ball first, make sure you take care of the little things first, make smart decisions. Be a great decision maker back there. I don’t want to have any fumbles or get hit, because you don’t want to make a fair catch when it’s too tough. Just make great decisions. That’s the main thing I always think whenever I go out on the field for punt returns. Be a great decision maker first, field the football and after that, just make the first guy miss. The rest is just natural ability, running ability.”
Coach Jay Gruden said he could see Crowder as the Redskins’ No. 1 returner this fall.
“Oh yeah, I could envision it,” Gruden said. “He’s been productive at it when he’s had the opportunity. He’s such a good receiver at Duke that they probably didn’t use him as much they would liked to have because he was such a key weapon for them on offense. But he’s the type of guy did a lot for them and he’s got the great, quick first step and he is a natural at punt returner.”