Lions Redskins Football

The Redskins’ Steven Sims

One of the Washington Redskins’ biggest surprises late last season was Steven Sims Jr. The 5-foot-10, 176-pound undrafted rookie wide receiver compiled 20 catches, 230 yards and four touchdowns over the last four weeks. The Redskins now expect Sims to step into a sizable role, and when asked which players he needed to get the ball to most this season, offensive coordinator Scott Turner named Sims first.

Sims recently spoke with The Washington Post about the Redskins’ new offense, his preparation for a bigger role, quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ evolving leadership and coach Ron Rivera’s past with small receivers, which he said gives him “more motivation than [he] ever needed.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: When you got to the Redskins, you were undrafted and under the radar. Now there are some real expectations. What can you continue from last season?

A: [Last year’s success] was just a lot with the connection me and Dwayne have. We built it early in the season, from the day I got there to living in his house. It worked out perfectly. I’m a Christian man, so God just put everything in place for a reason.

Q: Wait, you lived with Dwayne last season?

A: I didn’t have a home in Virginia as soon as we got back from [training camp in Richmond]. When we came back to Ashburn, we had a few weeks before camp was over, so I stayed with Dwayne for around a month.

Q: What was that like?

A: It was fun. Dwayne, he loves football, just like me. All he wants to do is watch football, talk football and work. I was on his schedule [because I didn’t have a car], so we were up early. I was [at Redskins Park] on a quarterback’s schedule, so I was there before other receivers were. I feel like that was a blessing in disguise.

Q: This offseason, you’ve continued working with Dwayne and wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon. What have you seen from those guys?

A: It’s like we never left [Redskins Park]. Timing, chemistry, everything — it’s going very well. We’re running smooth, calling plays from the new offense. You see Dwayne’s leadership out here. We’re just a bunch of guys playing pickup with routes. ... [If anyone messes up], he’s telling guys, “I don’t like the energy.” He said that yesterday.

To see that in Dwayne, that’s big for me. That’s what I saw from him late [last] year, correcting [former left tackle] Donald Penn in the huddle. He’s telling him, “Hey, Penn, shut up. I’ve got to say this play, [and] you’re sitting here going back and forth with the refs. We got to move on. We got a whole new play coming. A whole new clock is started and already running.” It’s good to see those things, that leadership and chemistry.

Q: How has your rapport developed with Dwayne?

A: We have been working on that. [Last year], Dwayne overthrew me on some passes. I was running hard, but I feel like I underestimated Dwayne’s arm, and he threw it to lead me away from the defenders. If we miss a big play or a big catch, we just say it’s a big-money play. We left a lot of money out there on the field.

Q: During your workouts, how does the new offense feel?

A: I’m not going to say it’s easy, because we’re all still going through some of the basics, but it’s more simple. We’re on the number system. The offense of last year, everybody’s getting tagged, the formations, the motions, this and that. It was a lot more complex.

Q: You’ve played receiver and some running back, and Scott Turner likes shifting guys around. What do you expect for your role?

A: I still feel like I’ll be the same kind of guy. Just give me the ball. I do feel like I’m going to run more routes this year, though. I feel strongly about that.

Q: If the offense attacks downfield a lot, like Terry said, space could open underneath. Could that be a place for you to thrive?

Definitely. I’ll strive in that area, but of course, I feel like I want to run routes and be down the field. I want to show that I can run routes as well. I’m not just a gadget player. I’m a receiver, and I run routes.

Q: How have you prepared for a larger role?

A: My conditioning. Getting in better shape to play maybe 90 plays in a game. Last year, I saw it out of Terry. He might’ve ran 60 routes in a game. Just a crazy amount of wear-and-tear.

Q: It could be tough if you have to balance a bigger offensive role and special teams.

A: I don’t think it’s different. I’m ready for whatever. We have a new staff, so that makes it even more in my head, like, “These guys didn’t watch you practice for a whole year last year.” They don’t know. ... What I’ve done up to now means nothing. I have to prove myself again.

The only small receiver Ron Rivera ever had was Steve Smith. When my agent called and told me that, that was more motivation than I ever needed.

Q: Wait, talk me through that.

A: It wasn’t a bad talk. It was right after we signed [Cody] Latimer, right after the draft. It was like, [Rivera] brought in bigger bodies [at wide receiver]. I was like, “OK, that’s what he likes.”

I’m not saying I’m on the cut block. I’m just saying: “Be different. Be another Steve Smith.” He started off the same guy. They only thought he was going to be a returner, and he’s a Hall of Famer. ... He was a small guy who played big. He wasn’t going to limit himself to being 5-9.

Q: You guys have a really young receivers group. Only one of the 13 receivers on the roster has more than three years in the league [Latimer, seven]. What are the challenges and benefits of that?

A: For me, [the challenge] was learning the system and terminology and everything. How I can be in so many different places and we’re still calling the same play? ... Then the benefits of it are: We’re a young group and everybody’s different, but we’re all still pushing each other and taking from each other’s games.

Q: What are your expectations for this season? Do you have numbers in mind?

A: I do, but that’s something I keep to myself.

Q: OK, the most important question: What have you been working on for next year’s touchdown celebrations?

A: I’m thinking about doing something creative. I’m still going to do the South Side — I’m going to always do the South Side. But next year, I might do a little fan thing, [like a vote]. How y’all want to see Steven Sims act a fool in the end zone this week?

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