Redskins Nation: Rypien on RG3; coming back from injury
Over the next two weeks, CSNWashington.com Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2012 and evaluate its outlook for 2013. Previously, we looked atoffensive tackles, the interior offensive line, and tight ends. Today, it’s wide receivers.
2012 starters: Pierre Garçon (10 games), Leonard Hankerson (7), Josh Morgan (14), Aldrick Robinson (1), Santana Moss (1)
Key reserves: Dezmon Briscoe
Key free agents: None
A few days before free agency started last year, the Redskins filled their top need in a big way by pulling off the trade for the second pick in the draft, the pick that would become Robert Griffin III.
When free agency started, they went about getting targets for Griffin. Despite getting smacked with an $18 million salary cap penalty they moved quickly to secure Colts receiver Pierre Garçon with a contract worth $42.5 million with $20 million guaranteed. Shortly after that they inked Josh Morgan to a deal worth $12 million over two years.
They added those two to their existing stable of wide receivers, which included second-year player Leonard Hankerson, and veterans Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong. Early in training camp they claimed third-year wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe off of waivers from the Bucs.
Moss had to undergo some adjustments, both physical and mental, to be a part of the team. He had been a starter since the moment he came to the team in a 2005 trade with the Jets. But with the arrivals of Morgan and Garçon and the development of Hankerson, Moss would have to accept a lesser role. And Shanahan told him he would need to report in better shape than he had in the past.
“We talked to him very frankly and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come in in the best shape as you get older,” said Shanahan. “ Sometimes our skills will go down a little bit unless you’re in great shape.’ And he lost 10-15 pounds, probably closer to 15.”
Hankerson (hip) and Morgan (ankle) had limited participation in the offseason program but were ready for training camp. Briscoe beat out Armstrong for the fifth and final roster spot and the Redskins went into the season opener in New Orleans with its wide receiver group intact.
That lasted less than one quarter. Garçon was off to a great start justifying his big contract with four receptions for 109 yards in the first quarter. But while finishing off an 88-yard touchdown catch and run, something popped in his right foot. He sat the rest of the game and an injury saga that would drag on for a couple of months began. Garçon missed six of the next eight games.
Garçon finished the year with 44 receptions, 633 yards and four touchdowns. Over a 16-game season that would project to 70/1,012/6, a very respectable stat line.
When Garçon was out and after he returned, the other receivers stepped up with big plays. Hankerson caught a 68-yard touchdown bomb from Griffin against the Rams and made a nice grab against Cleveland to get Kirk Cousins going in that game. Robinson grabbed long TD passes in back to back games against the Eagles and Cowboys to help get the Redskins’ season-ending winning streak started. Moss made an amazing grab of an amazing RG3 pass just before halftime on Thanksgiving. On Monday night against the Giants, Morgan made a heads-up play when he snagged a Griffin fumble out of the air and scooted in for a touchdown.
Moss, Garçon, Hankerson, and Morgan all finished the year with over 500 yards receiving with Garçon leading the way with his 633.
The Redskins led the league in rushing yards and that was due in no small part to the role of the receivers downfield blocking. Flip on the highlight reel of any of RG3’s or Alfred Morris’ big runs and you’ll see a wide receiver shoving a defender back to clear a lane.
Briscoe had a few opportunities when Garçon was out injured but he had just two receptions and at least that many drops.
With the exception of looking for Garçon to play 16 games, there is little that the Redskins would change in regards to the productivity of their wide receiver corps. They were supposed to have by far the worst group of receivers in the NFC East but the 2500 yards they gained as a group compares very favorably with any wide receiver group in the division.
Keeping things the same from year to year in the NFL is always easier said than done. Moss’ salary jumps from $2.65 million to $4.15 million. That will give him a salary cap number in excess of $6.3 million. That is a lot for a 34-year-old receiver who plays fewer than half of the snaps.
Contracts can be adjusted and the Redskins would certainly welcome Moss back at a reduced rate, perhaps offering him an extension of a year or two and some more guaranteed money. Of course, they could also figure out a way to make his current salary work.
Whether Moss is around or not, the Redskins would like to get more out of Robinson. He has the speed but he still needs to polish his game.
Hankerson needs to refine his game as well. After he spent the early part of 2011 on the bench before getting injured in midseason, this amounted to being his rookie season. He had a few more drops than you’d like to see and even many of the passes he caught were juggled before he secured them.
Garçon may or may not face surgery this offseason to fix the toe problem that cost him half a dozen games, but in any case he is not likely to be 100 percent until training camp at the earliest.
The Redskins would like to see more out of Morgan than his 10.6-yard average per catch and two receiving touchdowns.
Briscoe is under contract for another year and at 23 and 6 feet, 3 inches he is the youngest and tallest receiver on the team. The fact that the team invested a 53-man roster spot in him all season suggests that they believe he has some skills worth developing. They will work with him over the offseason to see if they can get some productivity out of him.