Friday, March 29, 2013
Eight in the Box: WR status check
By Dan Graziano
How does each team look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?
Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant broke out in a huge way in the second half of his third NFL season and finished the year with 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. If he can keep himself in one piece, he's one of the top wideouts in the league. Miles Austin is the perfect complement on the other side -- good enough that defenses have to pay attention to him but not the kind of guy who's going to complain if Bryant gets more catches. Austin has to keep his hamstrings healthy, and if he does the Cowboys have a top one-two wide receiver combo. Dwayne Harris came on strong last year as a No. 3 wide receiver, and guys such as Cole Beasley and Danny Coale could provide intriguing depth. Dallas could look to add a veteran wide receiver to its mix heading into training camp in case the young guys don't produce, but it's not a high-priority issue.
New York Giants: The Giants are at work on a long-term contract with restricted free-agent wide receiver Victor Cruz, who has 168 catches for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns the past two seasons (not counting playoffs). They'd like to keep Cruz, but he wants No. 1 wide receiver money, and the Giants to this point only seem willing to make him the highest-paid slot receiver in the league. That's mainly because they view Hakeem Nicks as their No. 1 wideout, and Nicks' contract is up at the end of 2013. The Giants would like to find a way to keep Cruz in the slot, which means they'll need to develop someone like 2012 second-round pick Rueben Randle or recent free-agent signee Louis Murphy as the outside guy opposite Nicks. They'll also need to get Nicks through the season healthy. But their biggest need right now at wide receiver is new contracts for Cruz and Nicks.
Philadelphia Eagles: Starters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have the top-level speed everyone thinks new coach Chip Kelly wants in his offense. Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson and newly signed Arrelious Benn provide depth. Benn and Cooper provide size. The Eagles are deep at wide receiver and probably won't be looking to add. But it's a prove-it year for Maclin, who hasn't been able to stay healthy or produce like the first-round pick that he is. Much also will be expected of Jackson, who was playing well before getting hurt last season, assuming Kelly can find ways to get the ball in his hands more consistently.
Washington Redskins: The big questions at receiver in Washington are whether No. 1 wideout Pierre Garcon will be all the way over the foot problems that cost him so much time last season and who will step up as the No. 2 on the opposite side. Garcon was a difference-maker when he was on the field, and if he can put in a full 16-game season, he should produce in accordance with his 2012 free-agent contract. Santana Moss returns, somewhat surprisingly, for another year as the veteran slot man. Aldrick Robinson is a useful deep threat. And the Redskins' coaches like a lot of things about Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan -- they'd just like at least one of them to show starter-caliber consistency on the side opposite Garcon. Wide receiver is a position of strength throughout the NFC East, and I wouldn't think you'd see the Redskins or any of the division's other teams pushing to add here.