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Position Group Rankings: The excitement for the Redskins receivers is real, but so are the questions

Position Group Rankings: The excitement for the Redskins receivers is real, but so are the questions

After each ranking the Redskins' position groups on a list that went from worst to best, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will now spend the rest of the week and weekend delving deeper into every spot on the roster.

Next up is one that has a lot of inexperience but also a lot of intriguing options: Wide receiver.

Currently on the depth chart: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Cam Sims, Trey Quinn, Cody Latimer, Darvin Kidsy, Isaiah Wright, Johnathon Johnson, Jordan Veasy, Emanuel Hall, Jester Weah

Who's in charge?: Jim Hostler (20 years of NFL experience, was with the Panthers in 2019)

Quick overview

Right now, receiver looks like Terry McLaurin and a host of supporting characters. However, there's a lot to like about some of those supporting characters.

Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon, for example, really came on late in 2019. Then there's Antonio Gandy-Golden, a Day 3 pick that many pundits have been praising. 

Truthfully, this unit may be one year's worth of additions and improvements away from really taking off, but even so, there's some true excitement about what they'll show in 2019. 

PAST POSITION EVALS: TIGHT END | CORNERBACK | O-LINE | QUARTERBACK | LINEBACKER

JP's notes

*Not sure this is really a note but I'm just going to leave this here. 

*Dwayne Haskins got asked about his young wideouts. I think the answer is worth noting: "Kelvin is in great shape, he’s running like I’ve never seen him before. Steven looks great."

*I think Gandy-Golden can play, but friend of the pod Josh Norris explained things well when he said that AGG faces a steep learning curve adjusting to life in the NFL after playing college ball at Liberty. Coronavirus and the weirdness of 2020 has made transitioning to the NFL hard for all rookies, but especially a guy going from outside the Power Five in college to the NFC East. 

*Considering the situation with Latimer it's not certain the Redskins open the season with a veteran wide receiver on the roster. Don't believe me? Ask offensive coordinator Scott Turner: "I just want the best players possible. I don’t care if they’re rookies or tenth year guys. We want them to compete and then whoever is the best guy and, again, we feel like gives us the best chance to win, we’ll put him out there." Be clear about this Redskins fans -- this staff will not be scared of playing young guys.  

*Yes, Haskins worked out with Antonio Brown. No, that doesn't mean the Redskins will sign the tempermental wideout. Don't believe me? Ask head coach Ron Rivera: "I know who Antonio Brown is. I know he is a great player and an impact guy. He is also a veteran guy and we have some guys that we have to find out about. That is the approach. We want to see what we have." Rivera very politlely explained that the Redskins are in a rebuild, want to see what they've got with young guys, and won't be in any Brown sweepstakes. 

*Third-round rookie Antonio Gibson might be a running back, but he might be a wideout, too. This quote from Turner on Gibson stuck with me: "You can label him as a running back, you can call him whatever you want, but he played 80 percent of his snaps as receiver in Memphis. He’s a little bit of a guy that can give you some versatility offensively." Gibson is a big play waiting to happen and it looks like Washington's play-caller will be creative finding ways to get him the ball. 

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Pete's notes

*If there is one area I want to see McLaurin do better in as a second-year target -- and let's be real, there's not much to choose from in terms of places he can improve in -- it's taking over games. McLaurin caught more than five balls just twice as a rookie and he surpassed 100 yards three times in 14 contests. Stars like Michael Thomas and Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins will consistently dominate on a given afternoon, often hauling in 10-plus receptions and showing defenses they won't be stopped no matter how much coverage is sent their way. McLaurin has the talent and the smarts to reach that kind of level in Year 2. Let's see if he's able to crank out a few performances that really make people take notice.

*Hello. Hi. Sup. This is me telling you to get hip to Sims now before it becomes a mainstream movement. He finished last year with 23 catches for 259 yards and four scores in Washington's last six matchups, and he's going to be even more of a problem in 2020 because he should be involved from the opener and will continue to grow alongside Dwayne Haskins. Sims' shiftiness is rare; it just is. So, go tell everyone you know to start paying attention to him immediately.

*I envision Gandy-Golden eventually having a more fruitful career than Harmon in terms of catches, yards and touchdowns, but Harmon may outdo Gandy-Golden in 2020. Harmon and Haskins really understand each other -- they've actually been friends longer than Haskins and McLaurin -- and that's a rapport Gandy-Golden can't match. In addition, the Liberty draftee's transition to the NFL will be even more daunting because he'll have fewer offseason reps to get used to life as a pro. For those reasons, don't be surprised if Harmon's stats are better than Gandy-Golden's by December. That said, Gandy-Golden should find his footing as the schedule moves along and he'll make his mark for the Redskins, too.

*Beyond McLaurin, Sims, Harmon and Gandy-Golden, it's pretty hopeless. I can't overlook that. The two things I'll say to try to make you feel better, though, are 1) There are veteran wideouts still out there the Redskins could sign if they want to and 2) the fifth (and, if Rivera wants to keep this many, sixth) receivers aren't really asked to do much on offense outside of an emergency. Those guys are the ones who pitch in on special teams and see a snap or two in certain packages. So, yes, that part of the roster is unsightly, but it's also a part of the roster that won't be featured prominently at all.

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Ron Rivera might not say it outright but it sounds like Washington is Dwayne Haskins' team

Ron Rivera might not say it outright but it sounds like Washington is Dwayne Haskins' team

Ron Rivera refuses to name Dwayne Haskins the starting quarterback for the Washington Football Team, but listening to the coach's comments about the second-year passer, it sure sounds like it's Haskins job. 

"He’s done a great job of studying, preparing and getting himself ready for this. He’s been great," Rivera said Tuesday morning. "He’s been on the field, doing the things we’ve asked of him. He’s done the extra stuff that he and I talked about in the offseason. He’s done the things that, I think, puts him right there where he needs to be at this junction of where we are in our training, having only been able to do zoom and now only having four days of work on the field."

Much has been made about veteran QB Alex Smith's return from injury. 

Smith's story has been incredible, working his way back from a compound fracture in his leg and 17 surgeries as his body was ravaged by infection. Now Smith is able to work out with trainers at the Washington practice facilities for multiple days without setbacks. It's a remarkable story. 

But there are still major hurdles for Smith to get back on the field, not the least of which is clearing a football physical from the Washington doctors.

"For him, it’s really just a matter of, can he do the movements he needs to do?" Rivera said. "Can he protect himself when he’s on the field more so than anything else?"

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There's another important element to point out and that's the advantage - real or perceived - that Kyle Allen has over Haskins.

Allen started nine games for Rivera and new Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner last season in Carolina, and found some success. The Panthers won Allen's first four starts, and in those games, he threw no interceptions. Conversely, Carolina lost the last six games Allen started and he threw 11 picks in those contests. 

RELATED: RIVERA PLEASANTLY SURPRISED BY ALEX SMITH IN CAMP

Earlier this offseason Rivera suggested that Allen could have a "leg up" on Haskins based on knowledge of Turner's system. Asked on Tuesday if Haskins still trailed in that department, Rivera did not seem concerned. 

"I don’t think Dwayne is very far behind, I really don’t."

Rivera wants open competition across his football team. No player gets named starter, rather that player earns the job. Sure sounds like Haskins is doing just that when it comes to the starting quarterback spot. 

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With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

With the way Alex Smith has looked so far, Ron Rivera 'can envision' him being in the quarterback mix

Positive reports about Alex Smith's early training camp performance came out over the weekend, and on a Tuesday morning Zoom call with the media, Ron Rivera echoed those reviews.

"He's looked good, he really has," the head coach said. "I'll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see how far along he is. It's been exciting to watch his progression."

According to Rivera, Smith has been working off to the side with Washington Football Team trainers at the Ashburn facility and is mirroring what Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen are doing, too. Coordinator Scott Turner and QBs coach Ken Zampese are apparently involving Smith as much as they can, and Smith is looking "very fluid" so far.

"It's a tribute to who he is, it's a tribute to his trainers and his doctors who have helped him get where he is today," Rivera said.

That all, of course, is wildly encouraging. The fact that the 36-year-old is in a place where he can check off those boxes and do those activities is astounding. That can't be pointed out enough, either.

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Yet it's also fair to note just how different mimicking a starting signal caller and actually serving as the starting signal caller are. So, is there any real chance of Smith transitioning from that first phase to the second before the season? 

With what he's seen from the veteran so far, Rivera certainly believes there is.

"I can envision it," he said. "The big thing is if he can do the things that we need him to do, that he needs to do to help himself on the football field, he'll be part of the conversation most definitely. He did some really good things last week. He went through all four workout days, had no residual effect the next morning, which is always important because the next day usually tells.

"We'll see how he is this week and we'll go from there."

As Smith continues to rehab and try to make his way off PUP, the challenges are solely physical. Rivera is not worried at all about the veteran having to adjust to a new scheme or dealing with any other mental task; instead, the primary concern is ensuring that Smith can handle the contact that'll come if he makes it back into live action.

"I believe he already knows probably 75-percent of our playbook," Rivera said. "So for him, it's really just a matter of can he do the movements he needs to do? Can he protect himself when he's on the field?"

It feels like every time Smith is brought up, he's taken another step. The next one, however — going from the PUP list to the huddle — is particularly daunting.

But at this point, it's gotten pretty difficult to imagine anything being particularly daunting for Alex Smith. So don't be that floored if he makes it happen. Rivera clearly won't be. 

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