Redskins position battle: Wide receiver

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
8:30
AM ET
RICHMOND, Va. -- Taking a look at how the receiver position is shaping up after nearly two weeks of training camp. I don't know how many wideouts Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden will want to keep, though I'm anticipating six (with Leonard Hankerson not ready for the regular season). It's possible he could keep seven but there are tough battles at other positions that could prevent this from happening.

Here's a rundown of the position:

Pierre Garcon: With so much attention on the new receivers, Garcon has had a quiet camp. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. It’ll be interesting to see how this season goes for him. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has a lot of trust in tight end Jordan Reed and his ability to win routes quickly. There’s a rapport with Andre Roberts as well. But Garcon was the go-to guy last season and while his numbers will drop it’s too early to say by how much.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
AP Photo/ Evan VucciDeSean Jackson is still building a rapport with quarterback Robert Griffin III.
DeSean Jackson: Has obviously shown his speed, which is impressive to see up close. He and Griffin remain a work in progress on the deep ball, connecting on enough to make them dangerous. The question I have is whether Griffin will have the time to make certain throws to Jackson. Last year, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles needed sometimes 3.5 seconds to make certain throws -- but he got it with a good pocket. Jackson will run shallow crosses, too, and does a nice job on comebacks and hitches against most (but not all) corners. Darrelle Revis blanketed him Monday.

Andre Roberts: Very technically sound with his routes, which is why the quarterbacks like him a lot. They know where he’ll be and when. What you haven’t seen a lot of yet, and what he showed on film, was the ability to make tough, contested catches. He has speed, but he’s never been a big deep-ball target, averaging 11.7 yards for his career. He’ll help on underneath throws against the blitz as well.

Santana Moss: Gruden has praised him on a few occasions and mentioned how Moss will help them this season. He’s a professional route-runner and that hasn’t changed. There’s a difference between Moss and those fighting for the last spot in this regard. Moss can help at more than just the slot in a pinch, though he’s no longer a deep-ball threat. Why keep an aging receiver? Because if there’s a big gap between he and those fighting for the last spot why let him go? But would Moss be inactive most weeks if he indeed ends up on the roster? Don’t know. At that point he’d be insurance.

Ryan Grant: The coaches absolutely love him because of his route-running ability. He's very smooth and savvy with how he uses his body in and out of breaks. He comes back well for the ball, an underrated trait. Grant creates separation against lesser defensive backs because of this, but we need to see him do it against physical corners who start. Will they just jam him and not worry about him running past them (he’s not a blazer)? Grant is off to a good start but he has a ways to go. He needs to get stronger.

Aldrick Robinson: Gruden loves his speed, as have previous coaches. Speed, like size, is a commodity coaches are slow to unload. Robinson makes enough plays in summer workouts to show that, as a backup, he could help on some downfield throws if nothing else. The Redskins lack size at receiver so they need speed; Robinson offers that. He still drops passes in practice so really he remains what he was a year ago. He knows how to run routes from all three receiver spots and that helps.

Leonard Hankerson: He's still running in shorts and does not appear to be full-speed yet. It’s tough to see him coming off the physically unable to perform list any time soon so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where he opens the season. The interesting decision will come when he’s ready to come off that list. But the season and how the other receivers are faring and what their role is likely will dictate what the Redskins should do.

Nick Williams: He finished on the active roster last season, but unless the Redskins keep seven he’s in trouble. He's limited to the slot. Williams runs good routes and has capable hands, but it’s tough to say that he’s jumped ahead of the top six.

Cody Hoffman: I’m including him here because so many ask about him. But the bottom line is that Hoffman hasn’t done a whole lot. He has size (6-foot-4), yes, but that alone does not make you effective as a receiver. Hoffman lacks speed so corners typically sit on short routes against him. He has a ways to go. Again: the commodity angle comes into play. Is he worth developing just because of his size? If so, they’ll stick him on the practice squad. But he needs to show more. The Redskins need size, but they need a starting-caliber receiver who has it. With Hankerson on the PUP list, Hoffman is the only wideout taller than 6-foot-1.

Rashad Ross/Lee Doss/Rashad Lawrence: All three players have flashed at some point, making tough catches -- one-handed grabs, diving receptions. Lawrence has caught a couple deep balls, but each appears to be more developmental types. All can be placed on the practice squad.

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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