Redskins Training Camp Preview: Wide Receiver
Today we continue our annual survey of the Redskins roster, seeking to determine which players are most likely to make the final 2013 team and which are not. We will look at every position on the roster and today we cover wide receivers.
ON THE ROSTER: Dezmon Briscoe, Skye Dawson, Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson, Devery Henderson, Lance Lewis, Joshua Morgan, Santana Moss, Chip Reeves, Aldrick Robinson, Donte’ Stallworth, Nick Williams
STARTERS: Pierre Garcon, Joshua Morgan
BACKUPS: Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson
ON THE BUBBLE: Dezmon Briscoe, Donte’ Stallworth
LONGSHOTS: Skye Dawson, Devery Henderson, Lance Lewis, Chip Reeves, Nick Williams
ANALYSIS: The fact that Pierre Garcon played in only ten games in 2012 — playing through injury in nine of them — but still finished second on the team in receptions and targets, tied for second in TD catches and first down catches and first on the team in receiving yards, yards after the catch and receptions of 20 yards or more, tells you a lot about the state of the wide receiver position for the Redskins last season. NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling called Garcon “the engine that made the Washington Redskins’ offense go last season.” The Redskins won 9 of the 10 games Garcon played last year and the one game they lost, to the Falcons, they were leading before QB Robert Griffin III left the game in the third quarter with a concussion. In other words, Garcon is the straw that stirs the drink. The more he plays in 2013, the better the offense will be. Garcon allows all the other receivers to move into supporting, complementary roles, which is where they can excel. In addition, Garcon’s playmaking abilities are singular among Redskins receivers and without him the team struggles to create big plays in the passing game.
While Garcon did have offseason surgery to clean up some minor issues, he did not have surgery on his injured foot, the reason he missed those six games and limped through the ones he did play. Garcon is hoping rest will cure his foot injury and the Redskins must hope this is the case, since it is only with Garcon on the field that the offense can be consistently explosive.
Josh Morgan got the other starting wideout job last year and he must be favored to win it again. Morgan led the team in receptions and targets [48 and 73], but he scored only twice and his 10.5 yards per reception is nothing to write home about. Morgan is in the final year of his contract and will need a big year to avoid a pay cut from the 2-year $11.5 deal he signed before the 2012 season. He should be healthier and maybe that will help.
In almost half the games last season Leonard Hankerson had one or zero catches. Obviously, that’s not getting it done. The Redskins were a run-first offense in 2012, but Hankerson had plenty of opportunities he just did not seize in his second season. This is his third season and he will need to produce in 2013 or the Redskins will probably move on from their 2011 third round draft pick. Although Hankerson didn’t drop the ball last year the way he did as a rookie, he bobbled passes too often and that hurt his yards after the catch. Finishing 4th in YAC among Redskins receivers is not good and Hankerson must improve on that. I’d also like to see Hankerson improve on his run blocking, which was substandard last season. Hankerson has a chance to unseat Morgan in the starting job, particularly since Morgan offers few big-play possibilities. If Hankerson fails again to seize this opportunity he will have no one to blame but himself.
After seven years of lining up as Washington’s X receiver, Santana Moss moved into the slot last season and thrived in his new role, easily leading the team with 8 TD catches and coming in second to Garcon in receiving yards despite playing on less than half of Washington’s offensive snaps in 2012. Moss isn’t the burner he once was, now at 34, but he’s still very quick and shifty and runs routes better now. There is every reason to believe he will make the team in 2013 and return to his slot role.
Aldrick Robinson caught two long TD passes in consecutive weeks last season, helping the team defeat the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys and sparking the 7-game winning streak that delivered the NFC East crown to the Redskins for the first time in the 21st century. However, after those two catches, Robinson basically disappeared. Like Hankerson, he needs to become far more consistent and do more than just run deep fly or post patterns. It would help his cause if he could win either the KR or PR jobs from Niles Paul and Richard Crawford.
I could be wrong, but Devery Henderson looks almost done to me. He caught only 22 passes for the Saints last year despite the fact that the Saints threw 700 times. Dezmon Briscoe was active for only 7 games last year, but the team kept him around all season so they must see something in him. At 6’2″ and only 23 years old, Briscoe has size and youth, two things the NFL values in wideouts. However, we’re still waiting to see some actual production. He will have to step up his game to make the team in 2013. Nick Williams and Skye Dawson are undrafted free agents who are probably hoping to make the practice squad, at most. Chip Reeves will compete with Dawson and Williams for a practice squad spot and he’s got speed so maybe he can make it happen.
Donte’ Stallworth is probably a decent bet to make the team if the Redskins keep 6 wideouts. Stallworth never stays in one place for long, but he’s familiar with the Redskins offense from his time with the team in 2011. Lance Lewis was an undrafted free agent out of East Carolina in 2012, but he got injured and never had a chance to make the team. He’ll get another chance this year, though his most realistic competition is Dawson, Williams and Reeves for a practice squad spot.
PREDICTION: Garcon wins one starting spot, of course, and Morgan and Hankerson duel it out for the other starting job. The winner should not feel safe because it wouldn’t surprise me to see both Morgan and Hankerson start opposite Garcon at times this season. Moss will continue to make plays as a slot receiver and Robinson will do enough to stick around for at least one more year due to that incredible speed. Look for at least one young wideout to make the practice squad. Right now, I’m projecting Washington as keeping 5 WR on the active roster.