While the Redskins futures for both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon remain unclear, wide receiver Maurice Harris was glad to have their presence around for his rookie year.
The Redskins have many decisions to make when it comes to their roster in the next several weeks. Many of those decisions, however, pertain to the offense, which entered the 2016 season with a plethora of talented receivers and optimism, and which now exists in a period of uncertainty.
Aside from not knowing quarterback Kirk Cousins' future, wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, both of whom collected more than 1,000 yards receiving last season, are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
If the Redskins decide not to pursue or bring back either of them, that would leave Ryan Grant, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Maurice Harris to round out the wide receiver corps, something that Harris, an undrafted free agent that found his way to the active roster midseason, has acknowledged over the last month.
"I try not to make it a big thing, like putting any extra pressure on myself," Harris said. "I still try to do the same things, make sure I go work out. As long as I stay prepared and play as hard as I can, and do my best, that's all I can control, so that's just my thing. I just try not to buy into it too much. But I obviously notice it, everything that's going on, and am aware of what could potentially could happen. Whatever happens, you've just got to come ride with it, and be there for the team."
After going undrafted out of the University of California, Berkely, Harris made a strong impression in training camp and eventually signed on to the practice squad before the start of the regular season. Head coach Jay Gruden was impressed by Harris' play on scout team and the Redskins activated him prior to their Week 7 matchup with the Lions.
Two weeks later Harris made his first NFL catches of his career, hauling in three passes for 28 yards. The next week against the Packers, he made a crucial third down catch that spurred the team's first scoring drive of the game.
Harris finished with eight receptions for 66 yards in his rookie season, one that finished with trust from his coaches and momentum to take into the offseason.
"Just the experience, going from practice squad to being activated and being able to play, I was just thankful for the opportunity, I learned a lot," Harris said. "I think this was a big learning year from me. I'm glad I got the chance."
Now, with the prospects of two veterans potentially leaving, Harris is grateful for the time he had with each of them to ask advice and refine parts of his game.
"When I was always with them I'd ask them questions," Harris said of Jackson and Garçon. "I'd always be doing stuff with them and learn everything I can. Because it could be over that quick and they could be gone. Obviously got that chance to be with them so that was big time for me."
Although Harris stands at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he still absorbed helpful tools from a fellow Cal graduate in Jackson, who, at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, offers valuable skills that transcend the differences in their body types and receiving styles.
"Coming from a player that's on the same team and the same system, any advice can really help," Harris said. "I just listen to everything they say, just try to take it in and use it because obviously he's been successful for many years. Anything he tells me I'd definitely listen to. Just little stuff with route details, how to run this way, what to do in this certain situation."
Harris will spend his the next several weeks at his hometown in Greensboro, S.C., where he'll work with former Panthers wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl, who owns a training center that Harris has attended for many years.
Along with having confidence from head coach Jay Gruden, Harris is glad that the offense under new coordinator Matt Cavanaugh will transition smoothly, providing him an easier learning curve as he continues to adjust to the league.
"He's a great coach, he knows what he's talking about," Harris said of Gruden. "I'm thankful that he and the organization gave me an opportunity to play and stuff. I just wanted to make the best out of it."
He may have quite the opportunity to do so again in his second season.