Washington Redskins: Andrew Hawkins

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.

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).
With so many toys at Jay Gruden's disposal in Robert Griffin III, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson, how does Alfred Morris fit in offense?

In his three years as the Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator, Gruden had two 1,000-yard rushers in Cedric Benson (1,067 in 2011) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (1,094 in 2012). The Bengals ran for 1,788 yards, 1,745 yards and 1,755 yards in Gruden’s three years as coordinator.

But he also had A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins and Mohamed Sanu at receiver. In the playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers, he got pass-happy.

“Jay sees the offense through the eyes of the quarterback, and having played the position, he has a great deal of respect for the position,” said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said at the NFL owners meetings in this Washington Post story. “He’ll say these guys are the luckiest guys because he would’ve given his right arm – left arm, I guess – to have the opportunity to be an NFL quarterback. So, he really is conscientious of that. He really has things unfold through the eyes of the quarterback."

Because he sees things as a quarterback, will he rely more on the passing game? It has been an argument used against Jason Garrett for his years as the playcaller with the Dallas Cowboys. Sean Payton was a quarterback and he leans more to the pass with the New Orleans Saints.

It’s only natural.

But Morris offers Gruden a better running back than what he had in Cincinnati. He rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns as a rookie in 2012. He followed that up with 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013.

Was it a function of Mike Shanahan’s scheme and the coach’s ability to find running backs anywhere and everywhere?

The NFL is a passing league these days, but Gruden can’t get away from Morris and become too pass-happy if the Redskins want to be successful.

Quick Takes: Player updates, RG III

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
  • Offensive tackle Donald Penn's visit lasted through Monday and he, like others, left without a contract. General manager Bruce Allen is known as being methodical – one agent says he likes to “slow-play stuff.” But in Penn’s case, there are multiple people in the building who already know him from their time together in Tampa: Allen, coach Jay Gruden, secondary coach Raheem Morris and personnel executive Doug Williams. So it’s just a matter of reaching a price. One thing I don’t know is how badly Penn wants to stay on the left side. Oakland also wants Penn, who visited there before coming to Washington.
  • Now it’s receiver Kenny Britt’s turn to visit Tuesday. His name was mentioned along with Andrew Hawkins as two Redskins targets entering free agency. In hindsight, I don’t know that Hawkins was ever a strong consideration to come here because of his size (5-foot-7), according to one source. But Britt was definitely on the radar; I know some Redskins reached out to him before free agency (they also had talked to Hawkins and Andre Roberts). I’m not a huge fan of Britt; knee issues and multiple arrests don’t do it for me. I suppose he’s fine if you’re not relying on him as anything other than a bonus. The Redskins could always draft a receiver in what is considered a deep class. They do need better depth.
  • Quarterback Robert Griffin III received his Ed Block Courage Award Monday night in Baltimore. Safe to say this award meant a ton to him after enduring what he did in the last year, not only with his knee but with the whole coach-quarterback relationship issue. The fact that it was voted on by teammates clearly meant a lot to him.
  • I don’t know exactly where things stand with safety Ryan Clark other than the Redskins are still on his list and they're still in communication. To say they’re negotiating suggests numbers flying back and forth. Not sure that’s the case. But clearly the sides have discussed a monetary amount. Clark also has drawn interest from Baltimore and the New York Jets.
  • We already knew that Griffin would be getting together with skill-position teammates in Arizona this offseason to work out. The Washington Post’s Mike Jones provides a few more details on the trip, like who is expected to attend. Newly signed receiver Andre Roberts is among those who will attend. Griffin did this before his rookie season, but could not do so last offseason because of his knee.
  • Griffin told CSN Washington at the dinner to receive his Ed Block Courage Award that he would not wear the knee brace this season. Not a surprise since it’s been mentioned on a number of occasions this would likely be the case, but it’s the first time since after the season that Griffin has said anything about the brace.
  • Griffin also will soon spend two weeks training with Terry Shea, the quarterback coach who worked with him before the draft. It's been a good offseason thus far for Griffin, just in terms of drama (none) and the ability to work the way he needs to get ready for the season.

Britt, Hawkins on Redskins' radar

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
If the Redskins upgrade at receiver, it might take a reclamation project to help them do so. According to multiple sources, the Redskins are interested in Tennessee receiver Kenny Britt, whose career to date has been marked by an inability to maximize his so-called potential.

A team source also said the Redskins are interested in restricted free agent receiver Andrew Hawkins. They also could be in on free agent running back Darren Sproles, according to Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman.

None of these names should be surprising given that the first two have been attached to the Redskins for some time. Hawkins played for Redskins coach Jay Gruden in Cincinnati. Hawkins is restricted, but the Bengals gave him a low tender. That means the Bengals would have the ability to match, but the Redskins would not have to surrender any compensation because he was an undrafted free agent.

If the Redskins sign Hawkins, it likely would mean the end of Santana Moss' Redskins career. They still feel he can play, but Hawkins is younger and faster. He's caught 86 career passes in three seasons, although he missed eight games this past season with a high ankle sprain.

If nothing else, Hawkins, who turned 28 on Monday, is a terrific story, as this Sports Illustrated article can attest.

Britt is a classic case of signing a guy just in case he finally achieves what many thought he might upon being a first-round pick in 2009. He's caught 157 passes in five seasons but never more than 45, and in three seasons he's played in 12 games or fewer. He tore his ACL in 2011, and the knee has reportedly been an issue since that time. Britt also has had multiple run-ins with the police since entering the league and was suspended for one game in 2012 after an arrest on suspicion of DUI.

At one point the Redskins were thought to be interested in receiver Hakeem Nicks, too. But that interest might have cooled.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

February, 8, 2014
Feb 8
Tried to get to as many questions as possible; tough to do. But in part 2, the topics include free-agent Bengals who might tempt Jay Gruden; Brian Orakpo; Chris Baker and positions the Redskins might target in the second round of the draft.

How Jay Gruden shaped his roster

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
Wanted to check out how Jay Gruden shaped his roster while offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. I doubt these were all his decisions, but it could provide a clue as to how things might evolve eventually with the Redskins' roster. Here goes:
  1. The Bengals kept only two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons. That was a departure from the past for Cincinnati, so don’t be surprised if that’s the route Gruden takes with Washington. And that means free-agent quarterback Rex Grossman might not return, assuming the Redskins don’t trade Kirk Cousins. At this point it wouldn’t make sense to trade him; let him back up Robert Griffin III another year and then see what you can get.
  2. They did keep Greg McElroy on the practice squad this season and had Zac Robinson on the physically unable to perform list before placing him on injured reserve. But on the active roster, there were only two.
  3. Bruce Gradkowski was Andy Dalton’s only backup each of the first two years, but he’s now with Pittsburgh after signing a three-year deal last offseason. Robinson was on the Bengals’ practice squad in 2011 and ‘12 so he knows Gruden’s system. But he has a year left on his contract. The Bengals just signed McElroy to a reserve-futures contract, so, at this point there’s not a quarterback Gruden could bring with him to help the others learn his system.
  4. They will use a fullback, something not every team does a lot of anymore. That should be good news for Darrel Young.
  5. The era of the small guards could be over. Gruden’s primary starting guards the past two years were Clint Boling (6-foot-5, 308 pounds) and Kevin Zeitler (6-4, 314). Redskins left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, who was listed at 284 pounds this season, will need to add more weight (which he knows). But it could be that he eventually gets shifted to center. Kyle Cook, listed at 6-3, 295, started there under Gruden.
  6. Starting right guard Chris Chester’s measurements (6-3, 309) would make him OK. Whether or not Gruden likes his 2013 film is another matter. Backup right guard Adam Gettis (6-2, 292) should bulk up; Josh LeRibeus’ size is not an issue, but another lazy approach to the offseason would doom him. Or, rather, it should doom him. I can’t imagine someone doing that with a new coach on board; then again, I can’t imagine them doing it after their rookie season, either.
  7. The Bengals opened each of his three seasons with at least six receivers, though one was primarily a return specialist. They started 2011 and ’13 with six wideouts and kept seven in 2012. They did not always hang onto all of them throughout the season, but that’s just how they began the season.
  8. They kept nine linemen in 2011 and ’13 and eight in 2012. So, in other words, he wasn’t wedded to a particular number.
  9. For the most part, Cincinnati’s receivers were taller. Last year, for example, of the seven who were on the roster at some point, five were 6-1 or taller -- and only one (Andrew Hawkins) was under 5-11. That held true for Gruden’s three seasons. Of the eight receivers on Washington’s roster this past season, three were under 6-foot (and listed at 5-10). Aldrick Robinson, Nick Williams and Santana Moss all were in that latter group. It’s a bit generous to list all of them at that height. But the overall point is: Gruden has typically not kept a lot of smaller targets.