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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Re-examining the Redskins' needs: receiver

By John Keim

Day 3 of taking a look at the Redskins' need before free agency and where they stand three weeks before the draft. Today it's receiver after already talking about safety and the pass rush.

What they’ve done: Signed Andre Roberts and DeSean Jackson.

Jackson
Problem solved: Yes. The Redskins needed a dynamic playmaker on offense and they just happened to fall into acquiring Jackson because of his release. Roberts gives them a solid slot receiver capable of getting downfield as well. Those two, paired with Pierre Garcon, certainly provides Washington a potentially dangerous attack. I say potentially because these are the Redskins and things don’t always work out as planned as you might recall. But all three are proven. While Jackson is a slight gamble because of his reported work ethic or attitude, he produced with the same characteristics in Philadelphia and was handsomely rewarded by the organization. His contract with Washington mitigates the risk.

What needs to happen: The Redskins need to be creative in how they use their top three receivers. Or, rather, should be creative. I say that because all three offer versatility in terms of where they can line up and catch the ball. Roberts played inside and outside with Arizona. Jackson was moved all over the place in Philadelphia, catching balls out of the backfield, going in motion to the slot, from split wide and then tight. They should be able to create a mismatch for someone – even more so when you add tight end Jordan Reed to the mix. Jackson excelled at the deep ball, obviously, but also on underneath crossing routes – through traffic. Garcon is better at running after the catch on bubble screens or smoke routes because of his physical nature. The receivers will have to sacrifice their ego just a little bit because you now have more weapons than anticipated. Garcon won’t catch 113 passes – it was a great year, but it didn’t exactly result in a potent offense. Jackson probably won’t catch 82 passes, either; he averaged 54.8 catches per season in his first five. His strength is not in number of catches, but in the fear he strikes and the plays he makes. So if he catches 60 passes, he will still be a big help. And Roberts won’t be the No. 2 guy as hoped (and probably expected). But all can complement one another.

Address in the draft: It’s a deep class of receivers, which would have been a good reason had they opted not to sign Jackson. Then again, this franchise hasn’t developed a quality receiver in quite some time. The Redskins could still use more young depth. Leonard Hankerson’s ACL surgery makes him a question mark. Aldrick Robinson is more than capable as a fourth or fifth receiver on the depth chart. Santana Moss is nearing the end and far from a lock to make the roster. If Hankerson doesn’t return early or takes time to get his game back, the Redskins would lose depth. One reason Washington did not want Andrew Hawkins, one source said, was because of his lack of height. If that’s the case, how many small receivers will Jay Gruden want to keep? (They also have Nick Williams, listed at 5-foot-10.) So adding a bigger receiver later in the draft remains a possibility, even if it’s as a developmental guy.

Last word: Quarterback Robert Griffin III now has a lot of choices, so that will put pressure on him to produce in the pass game. He’s had a terrific start to the offseason and seems himself again in terms of how he’s able to work (which he obviously could not do last year) and lead. Griffin will have to keep some strong-minded receivers happy, which is a lot easier to do while winning. He’ll have to improve his accuracy on intermediate and long throws this season – a full offseason of work should help this area. Also, Jackson made a lot of plays in Philadelphia when he wasn’t the primary target and quarterback Nick Foles would need 3.4 seconds to find him. Touchdowns or big plays would result. (I’ve watched every catch Jackson made in 2013; more on that next week.) That puts pressure on the protection to hold up (and some on Griffin to go through his progressions, but this length of time is a lot more about keeping Griffin upright or him extending plays).