Richard Crawford’s primarily goal is to hone his skills at cornerback and, eventually, become an every down player in the Redskins’ secondary.
But he also recognizes the fact that, right now, his best opportunity of securing a spot on the 53-man roster is as the team’s No. 1 punt returner.
“I’m a versatile guy,” Crawford said Wednesday. “I can play DB, punt returner or anything on special teams. I want to help the team anyway I can.”
Crawford seized the punt return job late last season after an ineffective Brandon Banks got benched. On eight returns, Crawford averaged 19.5 yards, including a scintillating 64-yarder in overtime against the Ravens.
It was that return – and Crawford’s decisiveness after fielding the ball – that earned him the punt return role for the remainder of the 2012 campaign.
“If you watch the great returners, a guy like [Chicago’s Devin] Hester, you don’t really see him dance,” Crawford said. “He just catches, goes and makes somebody miss. Certain returners have certain strengths. Brandon [Banks] is a 4.2 [second] guy, so if he hits the edge, it’s a touchdown. Me, I’m a 4.4. I can beat them with my speed, but I’m going to make somebody miss, get up field and then break. That’s my strength.”
Crawford said the transition to working under first-year special teams coordinator Keith Burns has been a smooth one.
“It’s the most freelance position in the world,” Crawford said. “They just let me do my thing back there. I’ve been doing it since I was five. I always hear my Dad’s voice in my head: ‘Just catch the ball.’”
Crawford started camp atop the depth chart at punt returner, and he’s expected to remain there. But he is sharing reps with undrafted free agents Nick Williams and Skye Dawson, who has made a number of plays at wide receiver but likely won’t pose a threat to Crawford. Actually, Dawson’s best chance of earning a spot on the team is probably at kick returner.
“That’s where I have my best opportunity of making the team because there are a lot of great receivers on this team,” Dawson said. “I have speed and agility. A lot of people don’t have 4.3 speed. And a lot of people don’t have the agility that I have.”