ASHBURN — Redskins cornerback Josh Norman grinned after Wednesday’s practice, confessing to what so many had witnessed in individual drills. Yes, he was trying to test wide receiver Maurice Harris.
During a one-on-one drill, Norman shoved his arm in Harris’ helmet trying slow his release off the line. Harris, however, beat Norman on the outside — hauling in another pass with a spectacular one-handed catch.
Harris, of course, did the same thing last Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, extending for a 36-yard touchdown in what was a candidate for the year’s best catch. It was Harris’ first reception of the season after being promoted off the Redskins’ practice squad just a day earlier.
“This guy is like a ‘Space Jam’ kind of thing — he’s got the whole magical ball right now,” Norman said. “He’s got his powers.”
After a strong showing against the Vikings with two catches for 50 yards, there’s a chance for Harris to continue to get involved in the passing game as Washington prepares for Sunday’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints.
Washington also has had wideouts limited in practice this week with injuries, which has opened the door for Harris to get more work in.
Ryan Grant and Brian Quick have both been limited by concussions, while Terrelle Pryor missed Thursday’s practice with an ankle injury. Jamison Crowder also missed Wednesday’s practice because of a personal issue, though he returned Thursday.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden praised Harris for his versatility and for knowing the offense. Those traits allow him to put Harris at any of the receiver spots on the field.
Harris built his familiarity with the Redskins’ offense last year, where he latched on as an undrafted free agent. He spent the first six games of the 2016 season on the Redskins practice squad before being promoted for Week 7 against the Detroit Lions.
“Being on the practice squad, you get the opportunity to play different positions through our practice and get different looks,” said Harris, who had eight catches for 66 yards last year. “It helps a ton.”
The Redskins promoted him last Saturday because they needed a fifth receiver with Quick out against the Vikings.
Norman and Gruden said Harris has been quietly improving throughout the year. Gruden added Harris makes up for a lack of speed by getting to his spots. Overall, Gruden said the 25-year-old is another weapon for the offense.
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said Harris does a good job of being “QB friendly.”
“QB-friendly receivers are guys who make a quarterback more accurate by the way they track the football in the air,” Cousins said. “They attack the football with their hands. When they’re covered, they can still come down with the ball in a way that the stat line shows that it was as if he was wide open. I think I’ve always felt that Maurice is that.”
And while the one-handed catches are eye-popping, Cousins and others have said Harris routinely makes those plays in practice.
It’s a continuation of what he did in college — the receiver is remembered for a leaping one-handed grab in the end zone during a game against Portland State in his sophomore year at Cal.
Harris said he doesn’t work on those catches ahead of time, insisting they come naturally.
“If it presents itself, I’ll do it,” Harris said.