Despite three fumbles on 12 punt returns so far this year, the Redskins continue to have confidence that Jamison Crowder can be a lethal returner like he was last season.
It hasn't been the expected start to the season for Jamison Crowder, but the Washington Redskins remain confident in his abilities as a punt returner.
During the 2016 season, Crowder averaged more than 12 yards per punt return while racking up 328 yards. He also snapped a streak of 124 games without a punt return for touchdown by Washington against the Baltimore Ravens. He was even named a 2017 Pro Bowl alternate as a returner.
Crowder has struggled to replicate that success so far this year through six games, as the third-year Duke product has returned 12 punts for 69 yards. His 5.8 yards per return rank 16th in the NFL among players with at least 10 returns.
While those numbers certainly don't stand out, there's one that does and that number is three. Crowder has already fumbled three punts this year, two of which were returned by the opposing team.
In Monday's 34-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Crowder's first punt return was fumbled after the ball was freed from his possession on a hit. Joshua Holsey, however, would recover the ball to prevent Philadelphia from getting the ball back inside Washington's 10-yard line.
"It was just one of those things, we've just got to make sure we just take care of the ball," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "Jamison is a sure-handed guy. It's just very uncharacteristic of him having three balls put on the ground as a punt returner. We'll have to keep studying the tape, where he's holding the ball, how he's holding the ball, and Randy [Jordan] will work with him and hopefully we'll get it fixed because we need to take care of the dang ball, that's for sure."
Check out behind the scenes images from wide receiver, Jamison Crowder's 2017 Redskins Photo Shoot.
Crowder admitted after the game his frustration for having three fumbles already in the return game (he only had two fumbles total in his first two seasons), but there isn't much he can change other than making sure he always has a tight grip on the ball once he brings it in.
"The other two in the first part of the year, it was just not really focusing up and catching the ball, but today I caught it and got a return with it and, like I said, [the Eagles] just made a play, tried to take, his helmet hit the ball and knocked it out," Crowder said. "It happens."
Crowder will remain the primary punt returner, as he is by far the most experienced player fielding punts on Washington's 53-man roster.
Chris Thompson returned seven punts during his rookie season, but has since become the team's kickoff returner while breaking out on the offensive side of the ball this year.
Kendall Fuller – listed as the No. 2 punt returner on the unofficial depth chart – has never taken a punt in his two seasons with the Redskins. In his three years at Virginia Tech, Fuller returned just nine punts.
"He is our returner," Gruden said of Crowder. "It's not like we have punt returners coming out of the woodwork. We have him and Kendall Fuller, who really didn't even do it in college. That's kind of where we are right now with the punt returner position. He's our guy, and I have faith that he'll get it right."