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The 5 O’Clock Club: Ladies and Gentlemen, Steven Sims!!

The undrafted rookie has had an electrifying rise from kick returner to starting slot receiver

NFL: Washington Redskins at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.


Back in May, Hogs Haven ran a profile on Steven Sims that relied heavily on a scouting report from College Football Metrics. I did my best in that profile to get readers excited about the young undrafted player that the Redskins had signed, but I didn’t imagine he would make as much of an impact as he has in the 2019 season.

Here is the bottom-line part of the film review done by James FitzGerald in that profile:

Steven Sims Jr. has to be a part of special teams to make the regular season roster. He was not the main punt or kick returner on film at Kansas, but he did return a few.

Sims has the ability to make the 53-man roster, but the Redskins have a few people that already have his skill set. To avoid getting cut or ending up on the practice squad, he will have to beat out our current return men for that spot, and he has a shot at doing that if he can shine in preseason.

In comparing him to T.J. Rahming, the Redskins’ other UFDA wide receiver, who is roughly the same size, with a similar skill set, Sims, in my opinion, has a better chance to make the team.

The Hogs Haven readers, after reading the profile, gave him a “B” grade as a UDFA prospect.

I’d say that Sims has exceeded my expectations and lived up to the lofty praise heaped on him by College Football Metrics:

What’s impressive to me is not only Sims’ high-end speed-acceleration, but his route running ability (he’s an ankle breaker to try to cover) and his hands/concentration on catches. He made some pretty sweet grabs in-between all those speed plays on his highlight reel...and some stellar stop/change-of-direction-on-a-dime moves that left DBs stuck in the mud trying to do the same.

Sims has the whole package for the NFL, in my estimation...and not just ‘he belongs’ – more like ‘he’s dangerous, he’s a real weapon,he could be a star’ (and could be a UDFA open for any team at rock bottom prices).

I really believe Sims is a gem totally hidden by circumstances and surroundings that camouflaged how good/great he might be.

Not only is Sims an athletic talent, he’s also a smart, thoughtful young man. Watch him in interviews...he’s always humble, always about team. He was an All-Big-12 Academic Rookie Team and made the Honor Roll a few times in his academic career.

If I were an NFL GM, I’m making this Steven Sims pick before someone else gets him. In this era of speed wide receivers becoming full-fledged weapons in the modern passing game and on jet sweeps, I want in on one of the best bargain WR prospects of 2019.

Despite not winning (or even being nominated for) the prestigious Mason-Brennan Hype! Award in the 2019 pre-season, Steven Sims has very much lived up to the hype, and he has earned his way onto the team the way everyone expected him to: as a return man in the special teams game. However, his own explosiveness combined with injury to Trey Quinn have seen him take on a more substantial role in the Redskins offense; he is currently the team’s starting slot receiver, kick returner and punt returner.

You can see how his usage in the offense has grown from spot duty early in the season to a significant role over the past few games:

From Weeks 13 to 16, Sims has had reception totals of 3, 4, 5, and 6, while seeing his yardage totals climb weekly, and securing three touchdowns in the past two games.

Sims demonstrated his explosiveness early in the season, with a 65-yard touchdown run in Week 5 against the Patriots. After the game, a gushing Kevin O’Connell talked about the need to find more ways to get Sims involved in the offense.

Sims added a kickoff return for a touchdown in the Week 12 victory over the Lions.

His feats as a kickoff return man have been the foundation of his success as a Redskin, and his contributions on special teams have not diminished as his offensive snaps have increased. The Stats and Snaps article for the Giants game is still being written, but consider this summary from James Dorsett following the Eagles game:

Sims fielded his first kickoff return of the afternoon at the goal line and returned it out to the 18-yard line. He let the next three kicks go for touchbacks.

He turned things up a notch with his final two runbacks. Sims gained 41 yards on the first of them before being taken down at the Washington 45. He added another 30 return yards on his last return, which was shut down at the 31-yard line.

Sims finished the day with 142 all-purpose yards, with 89 of those coming on kickoffs (29.7-yard average, 8 of them from punt returns and 45 as a receiver. The only other Washington rookies to ever put up 80 kickoff return yards and 40 receiving yards in the same game were Ladell Betts (twice in 2002) and Leroy Jackson (1962). Devin Thomas (2009) and James Trash (twice in 2000) were the last Redskins players regardless of experience to rack up 40 receiving yards, 80 kickoff return yards, 140 all-purpose yards and score a receiving TD all in the same contest.

Washington’s rookie return man trails Cordarrelle Patterson by just 25 yards (774 to 799) for the league lead in kickoff return yards. Sims also ranks second in both returns of 20-plus (18) and 40-plus (3) yards.

Sims added a 25-yard return to those totals in the Giants game.

Focusing on the four games from Weeks 13 to 16, here is some data about what Sims has accomplished:

  • Although he’s 13th in snap counts, he’s tied for 6th place among slot receivers for total targets and total receptions (alongside players like Jamison Crowder, Cole Beasley, and Larry Fitzgerald).
  • He’s tied for first place overall in number of touchdowns from the slot

When you look at only the past two games versus the Eagles and Giants, his performance really begins to stand out:

  • Sims is tied for 4th place in total snap count from the slot and 5th when measured regardless of position
  • 3rd in total targets from the slot
  • 6th in total receptions with 8 (there are 4 players with 9 receptions) from the slot
  • 1st in touchdowns from the slot

Not bad for an undrafted rookie!

Statistics tell us a lot about a player, but it’s terribly impressive that the Redskins coaching staff has placed more and more trust in Sims as the season has progressed.

Here’s what Bill Callahan had to say about the impressive rookie earlier this week:

He’s electrifying in a lot of ways.

I just love his ability to be the slot receiver. He’s got a lot of similarities to those smaller type slot receivers across the league, like Cole Beasley who I was with in Dallas. The Danny Amendola(s) and the Julian Edelman and players of that caliber. I think he is possibly one of those types of players as he continues to grow and get better.

He’s exciting. He’s dynamic not only as a receiver but as a returner as well.

Let’s just rewind that for a second...

Callahan compared Steven Sims to Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, saying that he is possibly “one of those types of players”!?

Edelman is a potential candidate for the Hall of Fame, and Amendola has played for more than a decade, amassed over 5,000 receiving yards, and has two super bowl rings. If Sims ends up being like them, he will have been one of the great UDFA finds in Redskins history.

That’s pretty effusive praise from the head coach. There’s a very real possibility that Steven Sims may end up having the kind of career in Washington that will be reminiscent of Brian Mitchell — an explosive return man who also contributed with regularity to the offense.

Mitchell was a power guy and primarily a runner, while Sims is small and primarily a receiver, but both need to be appreciated for their “yards from scrimmage” totals that include special teams contributions to really appreciate the depth of the player’s impact on the team. If anything, Steven Sims is likely to be more integrated into the Redskins offense than Mitchell was back in the day.

The Redskins’ 2019 season is about to end, not with a bang, but a whimper, yet the team is approaching a key off-season on which a new head coach will be put in place, and also in which, hopefully, the front office will be reorganized in hopes of reinvigorating the team, leading to greater success on the field.

On a roster that has a lot of needs, particularly on the offensive line and at tight end, it’s great to have two or three wide receiver positions secure with the emergence of three rookies: Terry McLaurin is a legitimate threat and a great route runner from the outside, Sims is playing well in the slot, and, to a lesser extent, Kelvin Harmon is emerging as a possession receiver.

Dwayne Haskins has spoken glowingly about all three players, pointing out that he has had a relationship with Harmon since the two were in high school, that he and Scary Terry played at Ohio State together last year, and that he and Steven Sims have formed an immediate and deep friendship.

Bill Callahan recently stated that Sims would likely be the Redskins slot receiver “for a long time to come”. Let’s hope the new head coach, whoever he may be, agrees.

The Redskins may make an effort to bolster this young receiving group with a veteran free agent or an early draft pick in the coming off-season, but the emergence of McLaurin at the start of the season, and Steven Sims over the course of it eases the pressure to fill multiple roster spots. One gets the feeling that a single quality addition to the Washington WR group will be enough if it is paired with the addition of a legitimate receiving tight end.

The Redskins offense, which finally looked dangerous in posting 35 points this past Sunday, is poised to take a couple of big steps forward in 2020.

If it does, it is likely to result, in large measure, from the emergence of Steven SIms as a multi-faceted explosive weapon who contributes far more than a quick look at the stats sheet might indicate.

Poll

Ultimately, how will Steven Sims be remembered by Redskins fans?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    a rookie flash in the pan; later forgotten
    (11 votes)
  • 52%
    A solid contributor for a few seasons
    (268 votes)
  • 39%
    A special player similar to Brian Mitchell
    (203 votes)
  • 5%
    Hall of Fame, baby!
    (26 votes)
508 votes total Vote Now