Rick Snider: Crawford is receiving hands-on experience

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Rick Snider

It didn't take long for the Washington Redskins to test cornerback Richard Crawford.

The seventh-round pick knew pro receivers would be faster than the ones he chased the past two years at Southern Methodist, just like those were quicker than the ones he covered at Saddleback College.

The competition was rising, but this was crazy. He lined up opposite the Redskins' top offseason acquisition, Pierre Garcon, and the two went downfield together.

"I'm running with [Garcon] stride for stride down the field," Crawford said. "He sticks one hand [out] and pulls it down. I can't believe he caught it. I hit his hand and he dropped it, but I couldn't believe he [even] pulled it in."

And that was the very first day of OTAs.

Crawford's ball skills were among the surprises so far this offseason. Crawford entered college as a receiver before converting to cornerback during his second season, and it showed when he made a one-handed interception.

"When I see a ball, I'm going to catch it, not knock it down," he said. "Playing the ball is something I do well."

Hear that Carlos Rogers?

Crawford began at Saddleback, a community college outside Los Angeles near his Mission Viejo, Calif., hometown. The nationally ranked program also produced linebacker Aaron Brown, who was taken a few picks earlier than his former teammate by St. Louis.

After six interceptions as a sophomore, Crawford chose SMU over San Diego and Portland State. He started 26 games over two seasons with six interceptions and 106 tackles for SMU. His 4.42-second time over 40 yards showed pro scouts he could play.

"I was a starter when I arrived," Crawford said. "The first game was kinda rough [35-27 loss to Texas Tech]. I learned what I needed. That helped me now with the transition. I keep popping levels and keep being thrown the ball."

So Crawford was like Crash Davis just waiting for that fastball when he lined up against Garcon. He knew his former cross-state standout Robert Griffin III was winding up to throw. SMU and Baylor didn't meet during their tenures, but the cornerback knew the Heisman Trophy winner's work. That play was a tie, and that was enough.

"I get really good work against Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss," Crawford said. "I'm really comfortable with what I'm doing now. I know what I'm supposed to do. I'm a really big route reader."

Confidence is one of those things that grows tall in the Texas heat. Being a draft pick will help in his bid to remain in a crowded backfield filled with lots of veterans. Crawford needs a big preseason to stick around. A couple interceptions sure wouldn't hurt.

"I feel like I belong," he said. "People tell me I'm doing well, just keep playing your game."

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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