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Redskins Depth Chart Review: Despite new draft picks, wide receiver a major question mark

Redskins Depth Chart Review: Despite new draft picks, wide receiver a major question mark

Redskins Depth Chart Reviews: Quarterback | Tight end

No Redskins receiver caught more than 50 passes last season. In fact, no Redskins receiver even caught 45 passes last year. No Redskins receiver caught more than two touchdowns last season either. According to NFL.com, the Redskins had the worst deep passing game in the entire league. 

In short, the Redskins did not get close to enough from the wide receiver position last year. And this year, it takes a real optimist to see things very differently.

To begin, Washington lost WR Jamison Crowder, who signed a multi-year deal with the Jets in free agency. The 'Skins also officially declined Josh Doctson's fifth-year option, which means this is possibly the last year in Burgundy and Gold for the 2016 first-round pick. Maurice Harris is also gone, he signed with the Patriots in free agency.

Perhaps knowing an overhaul was needed at the position, there have been additions to the WR unit.

The Redskins drafted Ohio State WR Terry McLaurin in the third round and NC State WR Kelvin Harmon in the sixth round. McLaurin should make an immediate impact on special teams. He has elite speed, toughness and a major willingness to block and tackle that will shine on teams. As a wideout, McLaurin has a lot of potential as well as vertical speed. It also can't hurt he played his college football with new Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the 15th overall pick. 

Harmon brings excitement but also more questions. Many mock drafts expected him to go in the first three rounds of the draft, but plenty of actual scouts said his lack of deep speed and route running polish pushed him down draft boards. 

Beyond the rookies, there should also be the return of injured WRs in Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn and Cam Sims. Or at least the hope of a healthy return. 

Richardson would help the Redskins a lot, right away, if he can play 16 games this fall. He's only done that once in his five-year career, but when he did, the results were strong. When he was healthy early last year, he showed some real skill and big play ability. Pro Football Focus ranked Richardson the 56th best WR in the NFL last year, and while that might not sound too high, it was the best ranking of any 'Skins wideout. 

Quinn and Sims are hardly known quantities. As rookies in 2018, both players got hurt Week 1 last season in Arizona and landed on the injured reserve. Sims did not return, but Quinn did. He had a touchdown catch in Dallas on Thanksgiving, but got hurt again, and went on the IR again. 

There are other guys as well - Robert Davis is working back from injury, Jehu Chesson was a special teams force last year, and Darvin Kidsy had ample opportunity to learn on the practice squad. 

Looking out to September, however, the Redskins receiver group still does not look like a daunting unit. In fact, it looks like the weakest position group on the team. 

That could change obviously, but while each player brings reasons for optimism, big questions remain. 

Maybe Doctson will finally show the college form that got him drafted 22nd overall in 2016. Or maybe he will continue along the same inconsistent path he's shown for three seasons in the NFL. 

Sims and Quinn were exciting rookies, but need to stay healthy. Richardson was the Redskins free agent star of 2018 and proved a big-play threat, but needs to stay on the field. 

Both rookies could emerge as real playmakers. McLaurin has speed and leadership; Harmon has moxie and great hands. But can a team really rely on two rookie wideouts and contend for the playoffs?

Outside factors could help the receivers as well. A healthy quarterback would be a big boost, as well as a QB willing to go deep and take chances. That could arrive with Case Keenum or Colt McCoy, or if the rookie Haskins gets the starting job, expect an accurate passer that likes to get his receivers the ball in position to get yards after the catch. A healthy offensive line would help, and a more cohesive play action game would be nice too. 

All of these things could make the Redskins receiver group better, but that still might not make them very good. There are reasons to like each wideout on the team, but until the veterans can prove their durability, or the rookies emerge, it's hard to see this glass as half full. 

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Are the expectations for Chase Young too high in 2020?

Are the expectations for Chase Young too high in 2020?

The expectations for No. 2 overall pick Chase Young are sky high, and for good reason.

Young, the Redskins first-round selection, was considered a generational prospect by many draft experts. As a junior at Ohio State, he led the country with 16.5 sacks in just 12 games. Young was a Heisman Trophy finalist, just the ninth defensive player to do so since 1982, and the winner of the Bednarik Award, given to college football's best defensive player. He's earned comparisons to Julius Peppers and other great edge rushers before him.

While the hype might be justified, Rotoworld's Josh Norris wonders if the expectations for Chase Young are too high for his rookie season.

"I do wonder, on a bad team, how much of an impact someone like Chase Young can have on the overall scheme," Norris said in a recent interview with the Redskins Talk podcast.

While Norris' take on Young might be different than many, his opinion on the Redskins as a whole is not. Across the NFL and in the national media, not many expect the Redskins to be very good in 2020. After all, they won just three games in 2019 and didn't sign any big-time free agents, with cornerback Kendall Fuller being Washington's biggest offseason addition not from the draft.

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The organization underwent a massive overhaul this past offseason, most notably bringing in head coach Ron Rivera and firing longtime team president Bruce Allen. But there's no telling whether those front office changes will directly result in wins, and the head coach admitted himself that turning around a franchise doesn't happen overnight.

However, what's interesting about Norris's comments wondering how Young will fit in is that the Redskins defensive front is by far the best unit on the team, which could have been said even before the addition of Young.

The unit disappointed a tad in 2019, but a large portion of that could be blamed on former defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's system, which was complex and often had players playing out of position. New defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has already stated that he will run a simpler scheme that allows his players to play fast and instinctual.

Plus, the Redskins defensive line is already full of talent. Young is Washington's fourth first-round pick the team has used on a defensive lineman since 2017, and the Ohio State pass rusher was the best prospect of all of them. If teams decide to key-in on the rookie, guys like Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan and Ryan Anderson will all benefit on the other side.

"The Redskins have invested heavily in that front four, five, six and seven for years and years," Norris said. "[Montez] Sweat, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Ryan Kerrigan, obviously, that was 10 years ago, but then you have Ryan Anderson as well. That's already a ton of investment that a lot of teams haven't been able to have."

With Allen, Payne and Matt Ioannidis in the middle, the Redskins should be able to apply pressure on the quarterback from their interior defensive line, something Rivera's units have had success with in the past.

"We know Ron Rivera's background is on the defensive side of the ball," Norris said. "He actually struggled for quite some time to find that premier edge rusher with the Panthers. They had Charles Johnson for a long time, they had Mario Addison, they brought back Julius Peppers, drafted Brian Burns last year. But a lot of their disruption when Dave Gettleman was there was from the interior as well."

What the Redskins have done with their defensive front over the past four years has drawn many parallels to the San Francisco 49ers defense from a year ago. From 2015-2017, the 49ers used a first-round pick on three defensive linemen, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas, before adding the final piece to the line in No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa last year.

As a rookie in San Francisco, Bosa's presence completely transformed the 49ers' defense. The 49ers finished the 2019 season ranked second in total defense, compared to their 20th ranking the year prior. Bosa's nine sacks were the second-most on the team. The addition of Bosa was a large reason the 49ers went from a 4-12 football team in 2018 to a Super Bowl appearance in 2019.

Norris understands the comparisons between the two. But the analyst believes there's another factor that the 49ers had that helped turn around their season a year ago. one that the Redskins simply don't have the luxury of (well, anymore, that is).

"I know people are going to compare this, potentially, to the San Francisco 49ers defense last year with how many first and second-round picks were spent along that front four, front seven," Norris said. "But that's with Kyle Shanahan calling plays. I like Scott Turner, but he's no Kyle Shanahan. Few are, if any."

In 2019, the 49ers offense ranked fifth in time of possession, while the Redskins finished dead last. As a result, the 49ers defense was one of the most rested in the NFL, while no defense was on the field more than Washington's a year ago. San Francisco's unit was often fresh in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line, while the Burgundy and Gold's was often gassed.

Young will undoubtedly make the Redskins defense better in 2019, and Norris isn't arguing that.

What the analyst is questioning is whether Young's impact is "going to equal a big optic in the win/loss column" and while Norris says the pass rusher is "a fantastic prospect," he's not sure that it will.

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Peyton Manning's rookie year shows why Redskins should be patient with Dwayne Haskins, one former GM says

Peyton Manning's rookie year shows why Redskins should be patient with Dwayne Haskins, one former GM says

As the Redskins set to begin a new era of Washington football, Dwayne Haskins' development in Year 2 as a full-time starter will likely dictate where the team goes in the short term. 

Based on his production last season, it's hard to pinpoint who Washington fans should expect under center. The player who completed 54% of his passes for an average of 165.3 yards per game and got sacked 18 times over his first four starts, or the guy who completed over 67% of his passes for five touchdowns and just one interception over his last three games.

If you ask longtime executive and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian, inconsistency isn't new for young quarterbacks. With Haskins entering his second season in the NFL having to learn a new offense under Scott Turner after just one year of starting experience in college, Polian acknowledged the young signal-caller needs to be afforded some time. 

"Dwayne Haskins is essentially a work in progress," Polian said on The Sports Junkies Monday. "You've got to give him a chance to get his feet wet and feel comfortable in the offense -- he's going to be learning a new offense -- but he has the tools and the thing that's nice about him is that he can do it with his feet and he can do it with his arm. And he seems to me to have the kind of poise and approach to things that you need in a quarterback."

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Polian has one of the colder takes of recent memory after suggesting Lamar Jackson should move to wide receiver, but make no mistake, he's an all-time great general manager. He helped build the Bills teams that made it to four straight Super Bowls and began an incredible run with the Colts by drafting Peyton Manning, who didn't exactly start his career off on the right foot. 

"It's going to come slowly, it does for every quarterback," he said. "Peyton [Manning] had an awful rookie year, but the arrow was up when [his career] was over. He learned a lot from the experience. I think Dwayne has already learned a lot and he'll be a lot better this year, but it'll take him time to learn a new system."

As a rookie, Manning threw a league-high 28 interceptions and only managed to lead the Colts to a 3-13 record. Indianapolis stuck with their guy, and he turned into one of the all-time greats. 

This doesn't mean Haskins is going to become the next Peyton Manning or that's where the expectation should be. But players like Manning, Drew Brees and Troy Aikman serve as an example for quarterbacks that bounced back from underwhelming rookie seasons.

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