Better or worse than 2010: Better, if only because they have young players who can develop into something. They improved their depth, but still didn’t find a playmaker.
2011 overview: Keenan McCardell described Jabar Gaffney as a silent assassin this summer and he was exactly right. Gaffney wasn’t going to wow anyone, he just went out and produced – especially against zone coverages. Santana Moss was not as productive as he had been in the past, but he was still OK. Leonard Hankerson showed more promise in one game than any other wideout had all season. But can he do it again? Niles Paul is a terrific blocker, but was targeted just five times all season. Donte Stallworth played well late. Terrence Austin was probably better than last year, but his play did not demand more opportunities, especially against man coverage. Anthony Armstrong dropped off, partly because of injuries. Just shows how hard it is to repeat a good season.
Degree of need: High. The Redskins have complementary receivers and enough potential depth, but they need to find a wideout who threatens a defense. Is that Hankerson? Maybe, but he only did it in one game. Gaffney was consistent, but he wasn’t going to beat a team. In fact, teams with good corners shut him down. Though the Redskins like Paul, it’s tough to see him developing into a playmaker. Aldrick Robinson has the speed, but did not play to his speed last summer. Will he be able to do so next summer?
Offseason chore: Find a playmaker. When was the last time a Redskins receiver ran away from anyone the way Demaryius Thomas did Sunday in Denver’s overtime win? Or the way Victor Cruz has done on a few occasions for the Giants? It’s not just about speed; Cruz reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.5s. I used this stat a week ago (actually, I botched it because I misread Cruz’s numbers), but here goes again: Cruz had 595 yards after the catch; the Redskins nine wideouts combined for 544 yards after the catch. Moss and Gaffney combined for 24 catches for 20 or more yards out of 114 receptions. That’s a bad percentage. Some guys have a knack and some don’t. It’s about breaking tackles, too. Whoever they get does not have to catch 80 passes – the Redskins have enough talent to spread the ball around -- they just need to be a major threat. Also, they have to determine which of the older receivers remain in their plans, from Santana Moss to Donte Stallworth.
Best place to find: There are good options in the draft and free agency. Dwayne Bowe is a free agent, though Kansas City would be wise to keep him. New Orleans’ Marques Colston and Robert Meacham, Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson, San Diego’s Vincent Jackson and Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne all are pending free agents. Some have red flags: Vincent Jackson, not expected to be franchised for a second straight year, is one strike from a year-long suspension; DeSean Jackson is a knucklehead; Wayne is old. I like that Meacham had nine catches for 20-plus yards out of 40 receptions. Bowe had 359 yards after the catch and 19 of his 81 catches went for 20 or more yards. In the draft, there’s Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon (who could/should be gone by 6) in the top 10 or a guy like Baylor’s speedy Kendall Wright early in the second. Point is, there are choices.
Key free agents: Donte Stallworth. He finished well, but we’re still only talking about 17 catches in the final seven games. He did help and is a good target on third down and he was fine on special teams. But if the Redskins add another receiver and Hankerson is healthy, it’s hard to see where Stallworth fits (especially if Moss has a good offseason). But there’s no harm in bringing him back on a one-year deal for depth purposes.
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