Over the next few weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2013 and evaluate the outlook for 2014.
Previously we looked at the inside linebackers, outside linebackers, the defensive line, the interior offensive line and offensive tackles. Next up, wide receivers. This afternoon, we’ll take a look at a key question facing the position and examine possible solutions, so be sure to return.
2013 starters: Pierre Garçon (16 games), Leonard Hankerson (7), Josh Morgan (7), Aldrick Robinson (1)
Reserves: Santana Moss, Nick Williams, Josh Bellamy, Lance Lewis
Free agents: Morgan, Moss, Robinson (exclusive rights)
Rewind: Garçon had one of the best statistical seasons a Redskins receiver has ever had. He set a team record with 113 receptions and his 1,346 receiving yards rank sixth in team history.
But his big season was not necessarily all good news. The 611 pass attempts by Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins were the most in team history, a record set in large part due to the fact that the Redskins trailed so often. Garçon was targeted 184 times, more than any other receiver in the league. That indicates a the presence of few attractive alternatives for Griffin and Cousins. Moss was second with 80 targets; rookie tight end Jordan Reed was third with 59.
Morgan and Hankerson were supposed to be solid options but both disappointed. Hankerson didn’t have the breakout season that many were anticipating and his year ended after 10 games due to a torn ACL that will cost him most if not all of the 2014 offseason program. Morgan was healthy after offseason surgery to remove screws from his foot but he was not as productive as he was in 2012, when he played in pain. Morgan’s receptions fell from a team-leading 48 in 2012 to 20 last year and he did not score a touchdown.
Moss actually caught one more pass last year thank he did in 2012 but his yards per catch fell from 14.0 to 108 and his TD catches dropped from 8 to 2. Robinson saw limited action and started to show signs that he may be more than just a deep threat.
Fast forward: The Redskins played 2013 with essentially the same core of receivers that they had in 2012. It seems unlikely that they will stand pat this year.
Free agency is likely to force some changes. Moss and Morgan have expiring contracts and the team faces tough decisions there. Morgan is from the area and may be willing to return on an incentive-based deal. Moss will be 35 before the season starts and the Redskins might want to move on.
The Redskins might also want to get some insurance in case Hankerson isn’t ready to go at the start of the season. He was injured in mid-November and a nine-month recovery would have him ready in August, about halfway through the preseason schedule.
Has Robinson gone from “wow, he’s fast” to “hey, he’s a complete receiver”? Can Williams play a role?
In short, the 2014 Redskins receiving corps consists of Garçon and a string of question marks. We’ll look to answer one of those big questions this afternoon.