After a turbulent offseason, which featured the firings of their general manager and defensive coordinator, the departures of their offensive coordinator, dynamic wide receiver tandem and two prominent defensive linemen, the Washington Redskins took a step towards getting back to football.
Monday marked the start of the team’s offseason conditioning program, with the initial phase featuring conditioning and strength drills.
Actual offseason practices will not start until late May. But for the players, Monday’s activities brought with them a welcome feeling.
“It’s exciting to come back and see your teammates and get that feeling that football is right around the corner even though it is still a while away,” third-year slot receiver Jamison Crowder said via conference call Monday.
After an overhaul of their wide receiving corps, Crowder returns as Washington’s most proven commodity at his position.
The 2015 fourth-round pick in the last two campaigns recorded a combined 126 catches for 1,451 yards and nine touchdowns. Those numbers – which include 847 yards and seven touchdown catches in 2016 – represented the most prolific stretch by any Redskins wideout in his first two years in the NFL.
But Crowder’s production came while serving as Washington’s third receiver behind Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, both of whom recorded 1,000-yard seasons in 2016.
However, both departed via free agency in March – Garcon to San Francisco and Jackson to Tampa Bay.
The Redskins are counting on free agent addition Terrelle Pryor and 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson to rise to prominence and help replace Garcon and Jackson. However, Crowder’s workload is expected to expand, and he could see time outside of the slot, where he lined up primarily the last two years.
Crowder said he’s not focusing on what kind of role change awaits.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m taking over or anything,” he said. “I’m just making sure that I ‘m doing my job and doing what I have to do to be an important role within the offense. You know, just making plays and helping out the team so we can get some wins.”
Crowder and his fellow receivers, as well as tight end Jordan Reed and quarterback Kirk Cousins got a head start on their chemistry building by meeting in Florida for three days in March to work under the direction of former NFL coach Jon Gruden, the brother of their own head coach Jay Gruden.
For Pryor – a former quarterback, who in his first full season as a wide receiver recorded 77 catches for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns – the three-day stretch gave him his first opportunity to work with Cousins.
Doctson used those three days to re-acclimate himself to the game after missing all but two games last season with Achilles’ tendon injuries.
Meanwhile, Crowder and Reed – two of Cousins’s favorite targets on third downs – aimed to hone their skills and grow with their quarterback, who appears set to play under the franchise tag for a second straight season rather than depart via trade despite the lack of a long-term deal.
“I mean the workouts that we had with Kirk, those went well,” Crowder said. “It was three days of pretty much just running routes and catching passes from Kirk; you know, just going over some things that we feel like we can take advantage of as far as within the offense. …
“It was fun working with Jon Gruden. We spent time, maybe two to three hours a day in the film room. He made cut-ups of each individual player that was down there from the season. Like I said, we talked about some things that we could possibly incorporate into our offense, just so we can take advantage of things we see on the field. It was a good experience.”
Like Doctson, Reed has worked this offseason to regain his health. A separated shoulder hampered him down the stretch of the season, but didn’t require surgery to repair.
Crowder relayed that Reed looked good and told his teammates that he feels good now.
Because of Reed’s return, promising early signs he observed from Pryor and Doctson and his own status entering 2017, Crowder believes Washington’s offense has a chance to remain one of the most potent units in the league despite the offseason overhaul.
“I think it can still be very explosive like the previous two years I have been here,” Crowder said. “You look at Pryor coming from Cleveland; he put up some big numbers last year with the Browns. Doctson, everybody is anxious to see what Doctson is going to bring to the table. I have faith in him that he will be a huge weapon for us. Obviously with Reed and [tight end] Vernon Davis, those guys had really good years last year and J-Reed is J-Reed. I feel like the offense can still be explosive, if not more than it was last year.”