Do the Redskins have the players for a 3-4 defense?
Mike Shanahan selected 21 players in the 2011 and 2012 drafts, and the 17 who remain on the roster are set to enter a critical stage in their development. In the coming weeks, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take a look at what those players have accomplished thus far and what they still must do in order to solidify their status in the NFL.
Who: Richard Crawford
Position: Cornerback/punt returner
Draft year/round/pick: 2012/7/213th
Career to date: As a rookie in 2012, Crawford suited up in the Redskins’ first six games but found himself deactivated Weeks 7-13 after some first-year struggles in the secondary. He returned to the lineup against the Ravens as the Redskins’ new punt returner and took one back 64 yards to set up the game-winning field goal. The Southern Methodist product finished the season averaging a whopping 19.5 yards per return on eight attempts. Crawford also worked his way back onto the field defensively, seeing significant time against the Eagles and Cowboys.
As a result, the coaching staff expected big things from Crawford as a sophomore. But he suffered a torn ACL in the preseason and did not see a snap in 2013. His absence left a gaping hole on special teams, which finished the season ranked 28th in average yards per return (6.4) after Chris Thompson, Josh Morgan, Nick Williams and Santana Moss failed to provide a spark.
Outlook for 2014: The silver lining is that Crawford’s knee injury—while bad—wasn’t as devastating as originally feared. In fact, he told CSNWashington.com in late December that he was ahead of schedule and was even able to do some light running, calling it a “good Christmas present.”
But as with all leg injuries, there’s a huge difference between being able to jog and being healthy enough to run and cut in an NFL game. The original timeframe called for a nine-month recovery period, which should put him back on the field in time for OTAs in May.
More good news for Crawford: As we mentioned earlier, no one stepped up and seized the punt return job. And even better for him: With cornerbacks Josh Wilson, DeAngelo Hall and E.J. Biggers due to become unrestricted free agents, there should be at least one job available on defense, too.
But it all depends on Crawford’s health. And that will remain a question mark until he gets back on the field and displays the same agility and speed he did as a rookie.