Over the next few weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2015, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2016. Previously, we took a look at the defensive line, offensive tackles, interior offensive line, and tight ends. Today, wide receivers are up.
2015 starters: Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder (slot)
Backups: Rashad Ross, Ryan Grant, Andre Roberts
Free agents: None
Rewind: Garçon was second on the team to TE Jordan Reed in targets (111), receptions (72), receiving yards (777), and receiving touchdowns (6). He made some clutch catches, including one for the game-wining touchdown in the last minute against the Eagles in Week 4. He was the steady member of the receiver corps; Garçon had no fewer than three receptions in any game and never more than seven.
In contrast, Jackson was very inconsistent. Health was an issue. He missed most of training camp and all of the preseason games with a shoulder injury. Then just 13 snaps into the season he pulled a hamstring and he was sidelined for the next six games. Jackson did provide a spark when he returned, averaging 17.6 yards on his 30 receptions. It wasn’t purely a coincidence that Kirk Cousins started on the remarkable stretch that carried him to his $20 million payday when Jackson returned to the lineup.
Crowder had a solid first season, breaking the Redskins rookie record with 59 receptions. He took the slot position away from Roberts, who was targeted just 21 times in a season that saw him listed as a healthy inactive on occasion and that ended with him on injured reserve. Grant started while Jackson was out but his production was disappointing. Ross got some opportunities to show off his impressive speed but he remains a project.
Fast forward: There are big changes coming to this unit but they many not come until 2017. One change that is likely to happen in the first few days is Roberts getting released. His cap charge is $5 million and the Redskins will save $3 million against the cap by releasing him.
There has been plenty of speculation that Jackson and/or Garçon might be candidates to be released. Both will be 30 this year, both are going into the final years of their contracts, and they count over $19 million against the salary cap combined. But Jay Gruden said at the combine that both receivers are in the Redskins’ plans for 2016.
If both are in the fold this year the Redskins will still have to do some succession planning at the position. It’s nearly certain that one or both will be gone next year. It would not be surprising to see them draft a wide receiver fairly early.
Gruden likes Grant a lot. “I feel really strongly about Ryan Grant,” he said at the combine. “I think he’s an excellent receiver just waiting for his opportunity to be a starter.”
At least at this point Grant doesn’t look like a starter but he will certainly be on the roster despite being targeted 42 times and making only 23 catches in 16 games.
Ross’ speed will earn him another chance but he needs to make more progress when it comes to making the transition from being a fast guy to being a speedy, skilled wide receiver if he is going to be a lock to be on the roster in September.