RICHMOND—Paul Richardson is upset. His attitude has nothing to do with his play, but it has everything to do with another wide receiver’s play and why people don’t see what he’s seeing.
“No, people are not talking about Maurice Harris enough,” Richardson said. “He’s one of the most talented guys on this team.”
Harris likely won’t ever be the top option for quarterback Alex Smith. He’s playing behind two fourth-year players in Richardson and Jamison Crowder and a third-year player in Josh Doctson who was a first-round pick, all of whom have found stints of success that the former undrafted free agent never has experienced.
Now, entering his third year, Harris is showing signs of developing into a consistent offensive option. He has had one of the best camps of any player so far and continues to carve up the Redskins’ secondary in team drills, proving why he believes he deserves more than the practice squad.
“I don’t really see myself having a role. I just try to go out there and help us win,” Harris said. “If that’s a role, I see it that way.”
Harris might be remembered for only one thing, his one flash-in-the-pan moment that came last year in Week 10 against the Minnesota Vikings. After being activated from the practice squad earlier that week, Harris had a one-handed diving touchdown catch with a defender in his face. However, Harris recorded only two receptions in the final five games.
Coach Jay Gruden said there’s still a “logjam” for the No. 4 receiver spot, but Gruden hasn’t turned a blind eye when it’s Harris’ turn to go against starting cornerbacks in team drills.
“The thing about Mo is he can play any position, and he is very quarterback friendly,” Gruden said. “He’s got strong hands, and ... he could be our best route runner on our team.”
What makes Harris an ideal option as a substitute is his size, 6-foot-3, hands and speed—all of which Gruden lauded Wednesday. If Harris enters a game for Doctson, he has to replace Doctson’s ability to high-point a ball over a defender. If it’s Crowder, he has to show his speed as a slot guy.
He also is one of the fixtures of special teams and at getting reps at punt returner.
“If one guy can stand out on special teams, that’s your fourth [receiver], period,” Gruden said.
Richardson said he sees a lot of similarities between his and Harris’ game.
When Richardson arrived in Washington, he said Harris was the one he turned to most in getting adjusted to the playbook and the locker room culture.
Having to prepare for multiple positions is likely what makes Harris one of the most knowledgeable in the group despite being on the active roster for half the games in his first two seasons.
“You always got to be locked in. Anything can happen,” Harris said. “You see it all the time with injuries and different things. If I’m always mentally ready and physically ready, then you never know when your number could get called.”
Harris insists he’s still learning and getting more comfortable at the position, but he’s clearly making it difficult for the coaching staff to put him lower on the depth chart.Richardson said he often tells Harris he could be the factor that takes the Redskins’ receiving corps to being feared in the league. But no one else has been able to see it yet.