Minutes after the Redskins recorded their first victory, Ryan Grant walked toward the Coliseum tunnel, gripping his helmet by the face mask. He didn’t look like a player that just recorded the game-winning touchdown as he trotted up the concrete pathway surrounded by three members of the chain crew.
Grant looked just like he does after a practice at Redskins Park: exhausted and indifferent. He rarely speaks, and with an opportunity to take ownership of the biggest moment so far in his career, the fourth-year veteran effortlessly downplayed the significance of his 11-yard touchdown reception that on Sunday propelled the Redskins over the Los Angeles Rams, 27-20.
“It was just another play,” Grant said. “It just so happened to be a touchdown that put us ahead. Really, Mason Foster sealed the deal for us. I feel like you guys should be talking to Mason or Kirk [Cousins] more than you’re talking to me.”
Grant, 26, didn’t seek out praise for his only catch of the game. But his teammates and Redskins Coach Jay Gruden heaped it on him after the game, as they often have since his arrival in Washington. Grant consistently has been questioned for his ability to play wide receiver because he’s rarely shown it in games. He has just 484 receiving yards on 44 receptions in 50 career games. Yet, Gruden consistently has praised him, to the point where former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan referenced him as “Ryan Gruden” on Twitter for how much Gruden has backed Grant over the years.
But in a game the Redskins needed to win, on a drive where they needed to score, Grant came through for his head coach.
“He can change his name if he wants to, man. He’s a great kid. I’d take him,” Gruden said. “He does everything you want him to do and runs exactly the way you’d want him to run.”
Grant did enough Sunday, catching his third career touchdown reception, for Redskins fans to again esteem the name that since 2015 has often been remembered for a slip on a route in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons that resulted in a game-losing interception returned for a touchdown.
He didn’t slip in Los Angeles, with less than two minutes left against the Rams. Aligned in a bunched formation to the left with Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder, Grant was lined up across from a Rams defensive end. He waited to see what the defensive end would do once the ball was snapped, which was rush the passer, before he edged between Pryor and Crowder toward the sideline. Cousins threw an accurate ball toward the sideline, where only Grant could make the grab. He secured the catch and tapped both feet before Rams cornerback Kevin Peterson shoved him out of bounds to give Washington the lead with 1:49 remaining in the game.
“He continues to show up on our practice film being wide open, running really good routes,” Cousins said. “I’ll work a ‘go’ ball on the left side and could pick either side [because] Ryan is running by his guy on the other side. It was great to get him a touchdown today, and we’ve got to continue to get him involved and get him opportunities because he’ll prove us right.”
Grant hasn’t received too many opportunities in his career to display what coaches and players see during practice. A fifth-round pick in 2014, Grant played behind Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson as an outside receiver during the previous three seasons. Washington drafted Crowder in 2015 to occupy the slot receiver role and Josh Doctson in 2016 as a talented starter-in-the-making prospect, and then signed Pryor this offseason in free agency.
At 6 feet and 204 pounds, Grant has often been a depth wide receiver during his career until Gruden hinted during training camp that he would receive an expanded role. During the season opener, Grant recorded a career-high 61 receiving yards as one of the few bright spots on offense. In Washington’s first road game, Grant recorded the first, and only, touchdown by a Redskins receiver this season.
“It’s just part of the game and how the game goes,” Grant said. “I had to take the back seat to some phenomenal starters we’ve had in the past. Now I’m just trying to do what I can do and just be who I can be, the best I can be, for the Redskins.”
Who exactly Grant is on Sundays is a work in progress on the field as the Redskins try to target him more this season. Once he steps off the field, and into the tunnel, it’s the same “low-key” Grant the Redskins have seen for years.
“It’s something I’ve come to expect from Ryan,” Gruden said. “Nobody else does except me and [wide receivers coach] Ike Hillard and Kirk Cousins and his teammates expect [this] out of him. Nobody else does, but we do. I’m happy for him. He works extremely hard and does exactly what you’d ask him to do. It’s great to see a guy with that kind of work ethic get rewarded with a touchdown to win the game on the road.
“He’ll show everybody. I’ve been saying that all along. He’ll show everybody, I hope.”