Over the next week, Redskins reporter Tarik El-Bashir will examine five candidates to break out in 2013. Today, we’re looking at cornerback/punt returner Richard Crawford.
Key stats: 10 games, 18 tackles, interception, 19.5 yard average on punt returns
Contract status: Signed through 2015 ($496,000 next season)
2012: The seventh-round pick out of SMU earned a spot on the 53-man roster after a strong preseason in which he recorded five tackles, two interceptions and defended three passes while also showing potential as a punt returner.
Crawford was pressed into duty early in the regular season when nickel corner Cedric Griffin was sidelined three games with a pulled hamstring. Crawford, however, wasn't ready and struggled in pass coverage. He was made inactive for Weeks 7-13.
When Crawford rejoined the lineup against Baltimore, he had a new job: Punt returner. Brandon Banks was out and Crawford was in. And with the Redskins desperate for a big play in overtime, Crawford provided it, taking a return 64-yards to the Baltimore 24 to set up the winning field goal.
Crawford also saw an increase in playing time on defense down the stretch, lining up for 58 of 77 snaps in Philadelphia and 28 of 63 in the regular season finale against Dallas.
Outlook: The Redskins are high on Crawford, and for good reason. In sporadic action, he managed displayed strong fundamentals and instincts as well as playmaking potential as a cornerback and a returner.
Crawford returned eight punts, averaging 19.5 yards per. Coach Mike Shanahan noted that he liked Crawford’s decisiveness when attacking seams, a welcome change from the indecisive Banks.
On defense, Crawford showed incremental progress while saving his best efforts for the final two games of the regular season. He equaled his high for tackles with four against the Eagles, then secured his first career interception when he picked off Tony Romo in the first quarter against the Cowboys. He was also credited with two passes defended in that pivotal win.
Given Crawford’s emergence in the return game and growth on defense, all indications point toward the 22-year-old California native becoming an integral part of the team in 2013.