The Washington Redskins focused most of the last few months on looking for ways to improve their defense. While the franchise clearly had their top priority in mind while making moves, they also managed to maneuver around a bit and attempt to replace the two 1,000 yard receivers they lost via free agency (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon). It’s never easy to replace that kind of production from the receiver position but Washington made an honorable attempt with the amount of available cap space the team had. Let’s take a closer look at the Washington Redskins’ options at wide receiver in 2017.
In 2016, the Washington Redskins were second in the NFL in terms of passing yards per game (297.4) but had issues scoring once the team found itself inside the opposing team’s 20-yard line. While the Redskins were loaded with speed and athletic ability, they lacked a true go-to-guy in the red zone outside of tight end Jordan Reed, who only started eight games because of health issues. Heading into the 2016 season, they only had one receiver (Josh Doctson) over six foot, and he was only active in two games last season. In 2017, the Redskins will enter training camp with eight receivers over six foot, hoping the extra size will give the team that added push it needs down near the goal-line.
The top returning receiver on the Redskins 2017 roster will be 24-year-old Jamison Crowder, who seems destined to break out in what will be his third NFL season this year. Crowder made 67 catches for 847 yards receiving, and seven touchdowns last year while serving as the Redskins slot guy (number three receiver) behind Jackson and Garcon. Crowder has the early advantage in terms of the number two spot heading into training camp in 2017 as second-year receiver Josh Doctson hasn’t shown enough to secure the spot. While Crowder is small in overall size (5-9, 177 lbs), he plays like he’s 6-5 at the receiver spot, and his athletic abilities are comparable to Darren Sproles after the catch with all the cuts and speedy shift-moves. Doctson (6-2, 206 lbs) was drafted in 2016 to serve as an eventual replacement to Garcon but spent most last season on the injured reserve list with an Achilles issue.
You know what that GIF of Randy Moss's juke that's doing the rounds today reminds me of?— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) June 12, 2017
This Jamison Crowder juke from last season. pic.twitter.com/SUuHJGqJqF
While the Redskins will have to wait and see what they have with Doctson, things are a bit more clear in terms of Terrelle Pryor, the team’s top offensive signing of the offseason. Pryor (6-4, 223 lbs) is coming off his first full season at the position after switching from quarterback to receiver. Despite having six different starting quarterbacks in 2016 with the Browns, Pryor managed to pull in 66 catches for 1,007 yards receiving, and four touchdowns.
Pryor signed a one-year deal during free agency that will pay him $6 million in 2017 but also has $2 million in other performance-based incentives. Washington is hoping that Pryor takes command of the Redskins top receiving spot and becomes quarterback Kirk Cousins’ favorite target. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden believes once everyone gets on the same page, they’ll be able to utilize everyone’s abilities.
“You know, Terrelle is a different guy when he is running. He is such a long strider that it doesn’t look like he is running that fast. So we have underthrown him like a dozen times already in two weeks. So it is just a matter of the quarterbacks getting used to it. Once he gets his feet churning, he’s fast, so they’ve got to trust that he’s going to go get it. It’s just a timing deal. The quarterback has got to see it and feel it. You can’t talk about it on tape so much, you have got to go actually out there and execute it. They’ve got to understand, they’ve got to really stick that back foot in the ground and launch it for him because he will go get it. He has been good, he’s been good to work with. The timing will come with Josh [Doctson] and Terrelle and obviously Ryan Grant is doing a much better job and [Jamison] Crowder is doing a good job, so we’ve got a good group of receivers that are working hard. Pryor’s brand new. He is a different style of runner and they have to get used to him.”
If Crowder does, in fact, take the number two receiver spot, that would leave the slot position wide open to a collection of possibilities. Fourth-year receiver Ryan Grant, always a coach’s favorite on the roster, appears to be the early front-runner. Behind Grant on the depth chart would be Doctson, free-agent pickup Brian Quick, Maurice Harris, Kendall Thompson, and rookies Zach Pascal, James Quick, Matt Hazel, Robert Davis, and Levern Jacobs. Gruden recently said he believes Grant will step up as soon as he gets the opportunity.
“That’s the big thing is opportunities. He needs opportunities. You can’t produce very well at wideout if you don’t get opportunities. Wide receivers moan about that all the time, ‘Throw me the ball.’ And poor Ryan doesn’t moan about it, probably internally he does, but hopefully he’ll get more opportunities. He’s our most consistent guy, without a doubt, as a far as being able to lineup everywhere, run the routes exactly how we want them at the right depth coming out of them. He’s physical across the middle, he’s fast enough to go deep, so I’m anxious for him to get some opportunities and see what he can do. He’s had a few here and there and he’s made some great plays, so we’ll see if he can maintain that.”
Gruden has hinted several times this offseason that the Redskins intend to run the ball more in 2017. A better running game would open the passing game up more and possibly add a couple of wins to a franchise that barely missed the playoffs a season ago, despite finishing with a winning record for the second straight year.
[Featured Image by Patrick Smith/Getty Images]