In his second year, Jamison Crowder has more than double the amount of touchdowns from his rookie campaign, just a part of his breakout season.
Throughout the offseason, wide receiver Jamison Crowder didn't have any specific goals for himself except just one: score more touchdowns.
He wasn't overly concerned with surpassing his rookie year reception total (which he should easily this season) or beating out teammates (he's currently tied with Jordan Reed for the most receptions and yards on the team) in different receiving categories.
"I feel scoring is better than obviously catching," said Crowder, who has done a good amount of both in his second season.
Through nine games, he has totaled five touchdowns, three more than he accumulated all of last season, leading the team in yards (535) and tied for the lead in receptions (44). The latter traits are understandable progressions from his rookie season, as Crowder and quarterback Kirk Cousins have found more rhythm and more opportunities together.
But the increase in touchdowns isn't always a direct product of those developments, which makes his ability to be threat in the red zone particularly impressive this year.
"That's just one of the goals I set, to have more touchdowns, something I'm trying to continue to do each week, trying to find a way to score, whether it's receiving or punt returns, something I can really put my mind to," Crowder said. "To this point, the opportunities have presented itself and I've been able to get into the end zone. Hopefully I can continue to get into the box."
His ability to find the end zone was on display last Sunday against the Vikings, when Crowder made just enough separation from two defenders on the goal line and collected a needle pass from Cousins. ("He did a great job of staying on a shallow cross and crossing the linebacker, beating the safety, and made a great catch and got the ball in there," Gruden said Thursday). Unlike bigger targets, Crowder has the cunning ability to get lost in traffic and stop on a dime to get open.
"When you're in the red zone, it's such a short area of the field that you've just got to be able to create that separation," cornerback Kendall Fuller said. "That's something he can do really well."
Consider his touchdown catch against the Eagles in Week 6, in which Crowder lined up inside Ryan Grant and Pierre Garçon, both of whom ran inside slants, while Crowder sped around them on a wheel route, separating from safety Malcolm Jenkins and hauling in a touch pass from Cousins with a few feet of separation.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 11 game against the Green Bay Packers Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
Crowder's abilities have allowed offensive coordinator Sean McVay more maneuverability in an area that Washington has struggled to finish in this season. With more eyes and double teams on tight end Jordan Reed, Crowder can take advantage of 1-on-1 and zone coverage, slipping around and motioning through defenders.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence and it gives us the ability to kind of move him around and use him in a variety of ways," McVay said. "The red zone has been something that he's been used in a little bit more and normal field, jet-sweep actions. Any way that you try to get him involved, usually good things happen for us."
It should be noted that Crowder's gifts as a receiver, and the reason he leads the team in receiving yards, extend after the catch. Two touchdowns in particular offer fine examples of his ability to find gaps behind his blockers and sniff out the end zone.
Against the Giants in Week 3, Crowder took a screen pass 55 yards for a touchdown following left tackle Trent Williams for a couple of blocks and then using his speed to finish the play. His touchdown in London vs. the Bengals displayed his unwillingness to back down from a challenge, catching a pass around the 10-yard line and diving through a defender, one-arm extended, for the score.
"Especially on a screen pass I get a lot of yards off of that and a lot of times, a lot of that credit goes to the offensive line, they get out there in front of me, make huge blocks, one or two guys down, I'm able to find the seam, or the holes and am able to pick up huge yardage," Crowder said. "When I get the ball I'm always trying to get up field and one the screen pass the line does a great job blocking.
Of his 44 receptions, 25 have attained first downs while 259 of his 535 yards have come after the catch, another indication of his playmaking and cross-over-inspired route-running in space.
"A very valuable player when he gets the ball in his hands," McVay said. "You always try to find creative ways to get him involved and I think [that's why] he's had so much success with us."