The reigning NFC East champions have actually started doing what actual good teams do: building their team through the draft. In the past two years, the Redskins have drafted a franchise quarterback, accidentally drafted a franchise running back, and addressed a glaring weakness in the defensive backfield. What have they forgotten? That’s right: wide receivers. You know…the guys that are supposed to catch the passes the new franchise quarterback throws.
The current corps of wideouts would be considered a mixed bag in the best circumstances. The featured pass-catcher (as well as the focus of Michael’s recent article) is Pierre Garcon. Garcon, the highest paid player on the team, struggled with injuries last year and was only able to amass 633 yards in the 2012 regular season. Garcon certainly showed flashes of the talent that earned the former-Colt the huge contract that Mr. Snyder signed him to, but wasn’t able to stay on the field long enough to be a significant factor. Interestingly, the Redskins went 9-2 in games that Garcon played. While that stat certainly may be coincidental, it is encouraging that the team’s performance seemed to improve with Garcon on the field.
After Garcon, the Redskins employ significantly less imposing experienced options. Josh Morgan (and his albatross contract) was able to accrue over 500 receiving yards (and one HORRIBLE penalty), and 34-year-old Santana Moss had eight touchdowns in his first year primarily out of the slot. In his second year as a pro, Leonard Hankerson was also able to eclipse the 500-yard mark, but still has a ways to go to be considered a top option. After those three, the remaining receiver corps lacks big-time experience and will need to continue to develop over the 2013 season.
So what’s the plan? First, keeping Garcon healthy seems to be key to having a successful 2013 from the wide receiver position. Getting only two 100-yard games out of a receiver who is the highest paid player on the roster will not be seen as a success. The opportunity for the receivers to be successful actually lies in the hands of the rest of the skill players. The Redskins brought back Fred Davis and drafted Jordan Reed to join converted wideout Niles Paul and much-improved Logan Paulson at the tight end position. Alfred Morris had a tremendous impact as a rookie running back, and with Evan Royster and Roy Helu returning from injuries, plus the two running backs from the 2013 draft, the ‘Skins should have a nice slew of options at running back.
Add the running threat of RGIII to the mix, and it appears as though the plan is to occupy the opposing safeties and linebackers with backs and tight ends to free up some of the wideouts. While this normally works the other way around, I believe Kyle Shanahan and the Redskins offense can succeed with this model in a significantly-less-experienced way that the Patriots spread out their weapons all over the offensive side of the ball. However, another season without a WR getting close to the 1,000-yard mark will certainly encourage the Redskins to prioritize the position for upgrades next off-season.