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Monday, May 26, 2014
Sizing up the rookies: Ryan Grant

By John Keim

The Washington Redskins knew they couldn't count on a draft pick starting immediately, not without a first-round pick. If it happened? Great. So they filled their perceived immediate needs in free agency and hoped several in the draft class could fill roles, some more prominent.

Coach Jay Gruden said the Redskins' free-agency signings should allow the rookies to develop without needing to start immediately. I'll take a look at how the rookies fit in and when they might be needed to play bigger roles.

Player: WR Ryan Grant

Why they don’t need him as a starter: They have three rather good receivers in DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Pierre Garcon. Plus Leonard Hankerson adds more depth -- if healthy. There’s also Aldrick Robinson and Santana Moss among the veterans. Washington needs more bodies at this position, but it does not need anyone who must contribute immediately.

Future role: Backup/slot receiver. The Redskins like Grant because he offers some versatility, able to run routes from outside or inside. But his ability to break quickly and catch in traffic will give him a chance inside. He’s not a big-play threat on the outside. But he is a savvy route runner against zone coverages, understanding where to settle. He’s also competitive, which always helps.

When he might need to be ready: 2016-17. The Redskins’ top three receivers all are signed through 2016 so, barring injuries, Grant has time to develop. Injuries always happen at this position, so they could use him to be at least effective before this point. Still, if Hankerson is healthy and Robinson shows any improvement, then Grant can be brought along slowly this season. He has time and will need it.

What he must work on: Strength. Grant is an excellent route runner -- smooth, fluid -- but he’s not a strong player. Being able to defeat press man coverage will be a challenge, though if he’s in the slot he can at least buy himself a little more space to try and win the route. His lack of speed hurts him here, too, as corners won’t be afraid to play him tight. The lack of strength also will hurt his blocking. Despite his route-running ability, he did not always create great separation because of his speed (this was definitely an issue for teams). He dropped too many passes during our one day watching him in the rookie minicamp, but has shown the ability to make excellent catches.