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Post Free Agency Roster Grades: Wide receiver needs one more legit piece to be complete

Post Free Agency Roster Grades: Wide receiver needs one more legit piece to be complete

With free agency in the rearview and the NFL Draft fast approaching, the NBC Sports Washington Redskins crew examines the entire roster, position by position group. Today: Wide receivers.

WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon, Cody Latimer, Cam Sims, Trey Quinn, Darvin Kidsy, Jester Weah, Jordan Veasy, Emanuel Hall

2019 recap: It feels like the Redskins are close to having a quality group of receivers for quite some time. If that actually comes true, 2019 will be where that group got its start.

Terry McLaurin's emergence (maybe explosion is the better word) was the best story of Washington's season. The third rounder hardly played in training camp or the preseason, but even so, the coaching staff and his teammates remained confident he'd deliver when Week 1 arrived. Those on the outside grew skeptical — then quickly saw what those on the inside knew.

McLaurin caught a 70-yard score in the opener in Philadelphia and consistently starred from there. By the end of the year, he had nearly set a new franchise record for rookie receiving yards and showed he was far more than a speedy specialist. Now, ask any Burgundy and Gold supporter for a reason that they're hopeful about the future, and McLaurin will be one of their first answers after Ron Rivera.

Beyond him, two other first-year pros stepped up, especially late.

Undrafted Kansas product Steven Sims survived roster cuts and then slowly made his way into the lineup, which was about the only slow part of his campaign. The shifty wideout notched a rushing touchdown, a kickoff return for touchdown and four receiving touchdowns in 2019 and was open constantly in the final stretch of games. If he can become a little more reliable with his hands, he'll continue to ascend. 

Then there's Kelvin Harmon, who finished with 30 catches. 22 of those grabs, though, came from Week 11 on. The sixth-round selection is also useful in the running game as an aggressive blocker on the outside. His ceiling may be that of a role player, but that role will still matter and he can become really valuable in it.

Now, for the negatives. Paul Richardson's second go-round with the Redskins was just as disappointing as his first, and now he's gone. Trey Quinn, meanwhile, couldn't even average eight yards per catch. He was eventually overtaken by Sims, a decision that should've been made sooner. Lastly, Cam Sims never got going after a nice training camp.

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2020 potential: Some may have finished reading the above paragraphs and wondered how such positive words could be written about a crew that played on the NFL's worst-scoring offense, and that's fair.

However, it's important to remember the three guys who led off the recap — McLaurin, Sims and Harmon — were found on Day 2, on the free agent market and Day 3, respectively. They all outperformed expectations by quite a bit, hence the praise.

The question now becomes: Can they each do so again in 2020 under Rivera?

For McLaurin, that seems almost unfair to ask, but he can still develop more (and he'd be the first person to say so). For as well as he played, he only had three 100-yard outputs and his single-game high for catches was seven. Yes, the QBs and supporting cast didn't exactly shine with him, but still, No. 1 targets dominate more regularly than that. 

When it comes to Sims, he must learn Scott Turner's system quickly — in 2019, he didn't see the field as much early because the staff didn't necessarily trust him — and reduce his drops. He's so fun to watch when the ball is in his hands, but too often, it ended up on the ground.

As for Harmon, his uptick in stats occured when Dwayne Haskins became starter. Those two have actually known each other longer than ex-Buckeyes Haskins and McLaurin have and they were very comfortable working together. Harmon's not as dynamic as McLaurin or Sims, but he's more physically imposing and can turn in to an effective possession option.

In free agency, Rivera opted to bring in just one receiver: Cody Latimer. The ex-Giant is coming off his best-ever season, yet that only adds up to 24 receptions for 300 yards. Harmon will likely have to battle with him some, while McLaurin and Sims shouldn't be too affected.

Even with that trio on the roster, the Redskins are still one more legit threat away from becoming scary. Remember: Washington went hard after Amari Cooper before changing up their free agency plans. The team clearly wants more firepower. 

Fortunately, they're nearing a draft that's supposed to have lots of threats to choose from. Right now, the 2020 potential on the outside is promising, but if Rivera and the scouting staff can identify another hidden Day 2 or Day 3 difference maker like McLaurin, then this position will really be exciting.

Overall WR projection: The headline of this story sums up the overall projection well. Together, McLaurin, Sims and Harmon are capable of doing damage for years to come, especially if the first two keep growing. However, for the organization to really feel confident in their offense, the depth chart will need to look more like McLaurin, _______, Sims and Harmon. That missing piece must be picked up later on this week.

WR grade: To avoid being destroyed online for putting too much stock into three second-year wideouts, the group as a whole gets a B- instead of something higher. As long as the Redskins select another receiver (or more) by the end of the draft, though, that B- will become a B- with an up-arrow next to it. How's that for a grade? 

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Washington WR Kelvin Harmon hopes his comeback season is similar to Adrian Peterson's

Washington WR Kelvin Harmon hopes his comeback season is similar to Adrian Peterson's

Washington's wide receiver depth took a crucial blow on Tuesday, when rising second-year pass-catcher Kelvin Harmon announced he had surgery last week to repair a torn ACL, and thus, will miss the 2020 season.

However, rather than dwelling on his current status, Harmon took to Twitter to say he's already focused on his comeback season in 2021. And luckily for the wideout, there's someone in the team's locker room he can look to for support on how to overcome the devastating knee injury, as well as how to come back even better than before.

What Harmon is referring to is current Washington running back Adrian Peterson's 2012 season, when the now 35-year-old was the suiting up for the Minnesota Vikings. In Week 16 of the 2011 season, Peterson ruptured his ACL (ironically at FedEx Field), leaving many to wonder if the running back would ever return to the dominant form he was prior to the injury.

Yet, the future Hall of Famer fully recovered from his ACL injury in less than eight months, missing no regular-season games in the process. Peterson then put together the best season of his career, rushing for 2,097 yards (just eight short of Eric Dickerson's NFL single-season record) and 12 touchdowns while leading Minnesota to the playoffs.

Additionally, Peterson earned MVP honors that season, which is the last time a non-QB has taken home the award.

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Prior to Tuesday's announcement, Harmon was poised for a breakout second season with Washington. The wideout came onto the scene late for Washington as a rookie, notching 23 of his 30 catches a season ago after Dwayne Haskins became the starting quarterback.

Plus, Harmon had earned plenty of praise from his teammates this offseason and was expected to compete for the team's No. 2 pass-catcher opposite of Terry McLaurin.

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For Harmon, returning with a 2012 Peterson-like season next year is a high bar to set for himself, especially since the running back's effort that year was one of the best single-seasons by an individual in the league's history.

But perhaps by having Peterson by his side, Harmon can snag a few tips from the running back to set himself up for a stellar 2021 season in Washington.

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Kevin Blackistone on Dan Snyder: 'He’s either got to change the name or get out of the league'

Kevin Blackistone on Dan Snyder: 'He’s either got to change the name or get out of the league'

Following Washington's statement on Monday that the current team name would be retired, The Washington Post Columnist and ESPN panelist Kevin Blackistone shared his problems with the release on Twitter.

On Monday during an interview on ESPN 92.9FM's Jason & John Show, Blackistone elaborated on the issues he took with the statement.

“My first thought was ‘Where’s the apology?’ My second thought was, ‘This is disingenuous because you still got the letterhead on here with the name just glaring,'" Blackistone said.

Blackistone, who is also a professor at the University of Maryland, had mentioned the non-existent apology in his tweet. The fact that the team name and logo which are being retired were still used in a release describing the change that was coming made him believe that the team truly didn't care. That is something Blackistone feels became even more evident when one considers how the new team name is being chosen.

Among all the options for Washington's moniker -- which is meant to honor the heritage and tradition of the franchise -- that have been considered, Blackistone noted that to his knowledge the Native American community has reportedly not been involved much in the decision.

"And my third thought was, ‘What do you have to say about the name that you’re considering given that you haven’t even given voice to, or given an ear to, the native folks who you’ve insulted since buying the team 21 years ago and having the opportunity to do this before,'" Blackistone said.

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Blackistone was not along in taking issue with the statement. The Sports Junkies felt it answered no questions, ESPN's Michael Wilbon called it "annoying" and "tone-deaf" and ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio saw it as "one final act of defiance" by team owner Dan Snyder

The combination of all the missing elements from the statement made it less impactful for Blackistone. Despite it being a big moment, there wasn't much to take away from the team's announcement

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That's something that Blackistone believes comes from the reasoning behind the name change in the first place. Washington has heard the backlash about the name for years, but it wasn't until big-name sponsors took issue that impacted the monetary situation of the league that real moves were made. Blackistone sees that as a symbol that Snyder's decision to change the name has nothing to do with right vs. wrong.

“There’s nothing altruistic about what’s going on," Blackistone said about Snyder. "He’s being forced at the point of bayonets to change the team.”

“Basically sponsors, not individual team sponsors, but sponsors for the team via the NFL," Blackistone said. "Which means, now it’s just not your pockets, but the other 31 owners pockets that are starting to be hurting. That’s why the move is being made." 

All Blackistone had to do to understand Snyder's true opinion on the name change is look back to what the owner has said about the situation in the past. The only difference to Blackistone now is that if Snyder continued to speak in the same manner, some believe it would result in Snyder losing the team.

“This is a guy who seven years ago infamously said he would never change the name, and you could put ‘never’ in caps," Blackistone said. Well, never has come home to roost and he’s either got to change the name or get out of the league.”

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