With the new league year underway, we’re going to break down each of the Jets’ new additions in detail. We continue today with former Washington wide receiver Jamison Crowder.
The 25-year old Crowder is listed at 5’9” and 177 pounds and was a fourth-round pick in 2015. He’s caught 221 passes for over 2,600 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns in his career so far. However, he’s coming off a season where he missed seven games and caught a career-low 29 passes.
Crowder was a three-sport star and in high school and earned a scholarship to Duke as a three-star recruit. He contributed immediately, playing in 12 games and catching 14 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman.
He became a starter in the following season and posted three consecutive thousand-yard seasons to round out his collegiate career. His best season was his junior year which saw him set an ACC record with 108 receptions for a career-high 1,360 yards.
By the end of his career, Crowder had amassed 283 career receptions to tie the all-time ACC mark. He also contributed 29 total touchdowns and was twice named an all-ACC first team selection.
Having attended the scouting combine, Crowder was projected as a mid-to-late round pick and Washington eventually selected him in the fourth round.
Crowder’s impact as a rookie was instant, as he tied Art Monk’s franchise rookie record with 59 receptions.
Crowder continued to produce over the next couple of years, setting career highs with 67 catches, 847 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016 and then almost matching those numbers in 2017 despite missing the first game of his career. He had four 100-yard receiving games in 2016 and then two more in 2017, including a career high 141 yards on seven catches in a win over the Giants.
2018 was a less productive season, though, as he missed seven games through injury and ended the year with just 29 catches for 388 yards and two scores. However, he did post a career-best yards per catch average (13.4).
The Jets signed Crowder to a three-year deal worth up to $28.5 million in free agency.
Now let’s take a look at what Crowder brings to the table, divided into categories.
Crowder is very small and doesn’t have long arms or big hands, so his overall catch radius is poor. However, he displays excellent short-area quickness on film.
His combine measurables don’t necessarily reflect this as he ran an underwhelming 4.56 in the 40-yard dash and posted poor agility numbers. However, he’s separately been timed in the mid-4.4’s and his pro day agility numbers were closer to average.
His explosiveness numbers at the combine were solid, as he posted a 37” vertical. However, he only managed 10 bench press reps.
Due to his lack of size, scouts and experts said that Crowder would need to develop into a slot specialist at the pro level, after he had contributed both inside and out at Duke.
He’s managed to achieve that, as he was in the top 10 among all wide receivers for pass receptions from the slot in his rookie year and just outside the top 10 in year two and three. All 14 of his NFL touchdown catches have come from the slot too.
That’s not to say he can’t also produce on the outside. He has 79 career catches when not lined up in the slot, albeit no touchdowns.
Crowder can also sometimes get the ball on end arounds and jet sweeps as he carried 21 times for 135 yards and a touchdown in college and has done so 15 times for 64 yards, including three first downs, at the pro level.
Crowder also completed 2-of-4 passes for 33 yards and a touchdown in college. He also looked to throw on a gadget play against the Jets in his rookie year, but Muhammad Wilkerson pressured him into throwing it away.
Crowder has been effective as a downfield threat at times over the course of his career, especially in 2016 and 2017 where he had several downfield catches, including five for touchdowns.
However, he probably shouldn’t be considered the kind of player who can blow past bump-and-run coverage on the outside to catch a pass over the top. Instead he’s done most of his damage running down the seam or on deep crossers and on blown coverages. While he has six plays of over 40 yards in his career, most of these have been boosted by yardage after the catch.
If you can scheme him open, Crowder tracks the ball well on deep throws and can come down with contested catches or make over-the-shoulder grabs:
As noted, Crowder’s 2018 yards-per-catch average of 13.4 was a career-high. In fact, he’s improved that number throughout his career. While that 2018 mark was bolstered by a career-long 79-yard touchdown, he has been targeted further and further down the field over the course of his career. His average depth of target as a rookie was 6.1 yards downfield, whereas it was a career-high 9.1 in 2018.
Crowder’s route running is excellent, as he shows good technique at the snap, is smooth and balanced coming into and out of his breaks and possesses excellent burst and acceleration:
Crowder is able to run the full route tree and can lose his defender on a whip-style route. He is especially adept on routes where there’s a break, such as slants and out routes:
While Crowder’s yards per catch average has increased and he’s been targeted further down the field, his catch rate has predictably fallen. However, it was only down to 66 percent in 2018, which is still an acceptable number.
Crowder has shown an ability to make catches in traffic, go up to get high throws and get down to scrape low catches off the carpet. He’s also displayed good concentration on tipped passes:
Despite having small hands, drops haven’t been a major issue for Crowder, who has averaged just four per season, although many of the drops he has had seem avoidable:
Ball security is an issue as well, as he’s fumbled five times as a wide receiver in his career, although he only lost a couple.
Nine of Crowder’s 14 career touchdown catches have come from in the red zone, so he’s definitely a threat down inside the 20. His ability to create short-area separation and make clutch catches as a possession option is valuable around the goal-line:
Yards after the catch
Crowder’s burst makes him an effective option with the ball in his hands, although he’s better at avoiding tackles than breaking them. He has a good nose for where the first down marker is and is not afraid to battle for yardage.
Crowder could potentially take some of the workload away from Quincy Enunwa in the screen game as he’s shown effectiveness on such plays in the past with 39 catches behind the line of scrimmage for 353 yards and a touchdown:
He had 15 of these in his rookie year, again influencing those yards per catch and depth of target numbers.
Crowder’s lack of size could make him a liability as a blocker, but when matched up with defensive backs, he gives good effort and can make positive contributions:
He has two penalties in his career for illegal blocks, though and graded out poorly in 2018, although he graded out well in 2016.
One of the most impressive things about Crowder’s game is how physical he is, despite his lack of size. That applies when he is blocking, in his route running and when he carries the football. He is also strong at the point of the catch and can hang on to the ball when taking a hit:
He’s been called for offensive pass interference once in his career.
Crowder’s only contributions on special teams at the NFL level have been as a return man. This has primarily been on punts, where he had this spectacular touchdown:
Other than that play, Crowder hasn’t had much success with just four other 20-yard returns, only one of which was longer than 40 yards. Overall, he has averaged less than seven yards per return other than that touchdown, although he was a playmaker in college with five touchdown returns in his last two seasons.
Ball security has been an issue too. He has seven muffs or fumbles on returns in his career. Five of these came in 2017 and he hasn’t been used much as a return man since then.
While it may be useful to have Crowder as an emergency option, the Jets would likely still feel more comfortable with a specialist in that role, especially with Crowder expected to have a key role on offense.
He has just one kickoff return for 13 yards at the pro level and averaged just 21 yards per kickoff return in college, mostly in his freshman year, so he’s not really a viable option for that role.
Alex Smith went out of his way to praise Crowder’s instincts and vision in an interview last June. Here’s an example of Crowder improvising to find an open area as a play gets extended:
Crowder also has good instincts as an open field runner, although his decision making on punts has let him down at times.
He has been penalized twice for false starts and once for an illegal forward pass at the NFL level.
Crowder is considered to be a player with a good work ethic and character. He doesn’t have any red flags off the field and is not overly demonstrative on the field.
He’s only had six penalties in his four years in the league, including no 15-yarders, with only one in the past two seasons.
Crowder played in 52 games in college and only missed one game in his first three seasons in the NFL, due to a hip issue. However, he was banged up throughout the season last year, missing a total of seven games due to ankle and wrist injuries.
Crowder also missed time in preseason in 2016 with a knee injury, but still played all 16 games in the regular season.
With his physical style but lack of size, there’s definitely a concern that durability could be an issue as he moves into his late twenties.
The Jets had a need for a slot specialist and Crowder fills that role perfectly. This will have the added effect of enabling Enunwa to play on the outside more.
Crowder is a talented receiver who fills a specific role on the Jets and may yet have untapped potential as he’s still only 25. In fact, he’s only six months older than ArDarius Stewart, whose failure to establish himself is arguably the main reason for the hole Crowder is now filling.
Crowder’s route running is excellent, which could be important both on the field and in terms of helping to mentor some of the Jets’ younger pass catchers. 17 of his 29 catches last year came on third down and six or longer, so, he will hopefully give them that clutch possession option who can convert third downs and keep the chains moving.
As to whether he can take over the punt return role from Andre Roberts, that’s an option, although it seems more likely the Jets will find someone else to handle those duties and keep Crowder as an emergency back-up.
Ultimately, this brings another weapon to the Jets offense, which should provide Sam Darnold with an option he didn’t really have for most of his rookie season. Hopefully, Crowder can help contribute to Darnold’s continued growth.