Steven Sims Jr. had no idea what his future held around this time last year.
Sims, who spent three seasons at the University of Kansas, was on the fringe of the roster before training camp began. He was an undrafted free agent surrounded by talented draftees like Terry McLaurin and other veterans, and he didn't know what his role would be.
Things have changed in the past year, though. Through a mixture of injuries and his own ability, Sims quickly became an electric piece on Washington's offense and special teams, ending the season as one of the team's starting receivers.
Despite an unprecedented offseason with higher expectations, Sims did not seem to have any problems building upon his rookie season. In fact, his teammates said he is looking great.
"I feel like he's probably made one of the biggest jumps," McLaurin said of Sims in a videoconference in June.
Speed and quickness were never issues for Sims last year. He recorded a 4.5-second 40-yard dash time at his Pro Day, and that was on display during his first-career touchdown when he dodged and sprinted past New England defenders on his way to a 65-yard touchdown in October.
Sims started to show off more of his talents as the season went on. During the last three games of the season, he caught about 55% of his targets for 190 yards and four touchdowns. In the season finale against Dallas, he turned a 12-yard pass into a 65-yard play by outrunning the secondary.
Once the season was over, Sims said he "slowed the game down."
"I'm seeing things faster, knowing what the defense is going to do to me after the snap, things like that."
McLaurin, who frequently worked with Sims, Kelvin Harmon and Dwayne Haskins Jr. this offseason, said there were times last season when Sims' feet would slip. Sims has clearly put in work to fix that problem, though, because McLaurin noted how "clean" his feet have been this summer.
"I'm really excited to see him flourish in an offense that can showcase his versatility inside or out," McLaurin said.
Sims said after the season finale that he wanted to improve upon every aspect of his game, but his chemistry with Haskins was also a priority for him. Their connection already has a strong foundation; once Haskins was named the starter against Buffalo, he targeted Sims 47 times, including 11 against Philadelphia in Week 15.
"Steven is somebody that's really dynamic with the ball," Haskins said during the season. "[He] makes a lot of plays with the ball in his hands. [I'm] just trying to get him to understand where he is in the concept, situational awareness and play and of course when he gets the ball in his hands, he's electric. So, just getting him into the offense and where he fits into the roles, and he's doing a good job each week transforming his play -- instead of just being the gadget guy -- to an actual receiver."
Still, Sims wants to continue building their rapport; in an interview with The Washington Post in June, Sims said Haskins "overthrew me on some passes" and that he "underestimated" Haskins' arm strength at times.
"If we miss a big play or a big catch, we just say it's a big-money play," Sims told The Post. "We left a lot of money out there on the field."
It's unclear what role Sims will have in Scott Turner's Air Coryell scheme, but Turner did mention Sims alongside newcomers Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic as players who he needed to emphasize getting the ball to this season.
Sims thinks he will run more routes in the new system, but he feels he can be the same type of player he was at the end of 2019. He only has one request: "Just give me the ball."
"I feel like I want to run routes and be down the field," Sims told The Post. "I want to show that I can run routes as well. I'm not just a gadget player."