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Success of Redskins receiving corps hinges on ability to match potential

Success of Redskins receiving corps hinges on ability to match potential

When looking at what's gone wrong for the Redskins in recent seasons, it's hard to overlook the struggles the team has had at the receiver position. Some of the problems can be attributed to unpredictable injuries, but there's no denying the lack of production, and surplus of drops, that have come from the pass-catchers.

In 2018, the Redskins top wide receiver, Josh Doctson, only put together a stat line of 44 receptions, 532 yards and two touchdowns. No terrible, but not what you're looking for out of the No. 1 option.

In 2019, Trevor Matich believes that won't be the case. A mixture of new drafts picks and players returning from injury has the analyst seeing a brighter future for the passing game.

"The receiver group has a chance to be deep and productive for the first time in a long time around here," Matich said.

"I love the potential of the Redskins receiver room," he added.

The key word, however, is potential. If the Redskins receivers want to change the stigma around the group, they'll have to play to the ability many believe they can. When talking about living up to potential, Josh Doctson is a name that surely comes to mind. The Redskins' first-round pick in 2016, he hasn't been all that Washington has hoped for.

Despite being the leading wide receiver in 2018, the combination of injuries that kept him off the field, and inconsistent play on it, have put Doctson in a situation where the team did not pick up his fifth-year option prior to this season. The receiver even said himself that he thinks he'll hit free agency after this campaign.

For Matich, he's not ready to give up on him just yet. In a make-or-break year for Doctson, Matich sees him as the wild card that could dictate the success or failure of the group.

"The light might come on for him, and if it does he's got all the potential that he had coming out of TCU and into the NFL. To be able to jump high in the air and make contested catches even when he's well-covered," Matich said. "The Redskins in the red zone have not been particularly productive in part because they haven't had a wide receiver to that. That's why they drafted Doctson. If the light comes on, he'll be here for a long time. If it doesn't come on, there are other guys that can compete for that role."

Even if Doctson doesn't figure it out, Matich is still in on the other pass-catchers the Redskins will feature. Cam Sims, who only made it through part of a game in 2018, is someone that he believes will become a solid target with his combination of speed and strength. He's also excited about the speedy duo of Terry McLaurin and Paul Richardson Jr.

McLaurin has impressed in his early showings, even having some analysts believing he should get a crack at the starting spot across from Doctson. Matich agrees that McLaurin should be lined up on one end, but he also likes the idea of putting the now-healthy Richardson Jr. on the field at the same time. After missing most of last season, Richardson has the potential to change the dynamic of the offense, with Jay Gruden believing he could be an X-Factor.

"Now you can imagine one on one side and the other on the other side," Matich said. "That'll open up all kinds of space for the tall guys underneath to make plays. The Redskins receiver room has the potential to be extremely productive."

New names and old, the formula is there for the Redskins to have success through the air in 2019. But, it all depends on the "ifs". If Josh Doctson finally establishes himself as a reliable option, the group gets deeper and more dangerous. If McLaurin and Richardson Jr. can stretch the field, everything becomes easier. The possibilities are there, now they just have to deliver.

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

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10 Training Camp Questions: How dangerous is the Brandon Scherff contract situation?

The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.

10) Will the Redskins develop depth on the D-line?

9) Can the Redskins count on Montae Nicholson?

8) Want better offense? Get more out of the tight ends 

7) Will Jimmy Moreland actually win the slot CB job from Fabian Moreau?

6) After losing Reuben Foster, how's the Redskins LB situation?

5) Will potential match production for Redskins WRs?

When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff. 

Mostly. 

Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. 

Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL. 

Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?

Wrong. 

Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.

Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.

That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins. 

In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago. 

In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency. 

If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette. 

The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp. 

The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away. 

Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.

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Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

On paper, Jay Gruden's tenor with the Redskins is nothing to write home about. Through five seasons he holds a 35-44-1 record, good enough for a .444 winning percentage. Looking at that, some may draw the conclusion that Gruden hasn't been what the Redskins need at the helm.

But according to Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt, that's not exactly the case. Taking into account the variables Gruden has dealt with throughout the five years, Gantt actually sees him as a "really good" coach.

"I have always come down of the side, maybe, of guys who are doing more with less," Gantt said recently on a Redskins Talk Podcast. "I think Jay has done a pretty good job keeping things in the middle."

Doing more with less and working in the middle essentially defines Jay Gruden's career with the Redskins. Besides his opening year in 2014 in which Washington went 4-12, Gruden's teams have consistently finished right around the middle of the pack.

In the last four seasons, the Redskins have not won more than nine games, but they also haven't lost more than nine. Hovering right around .500, they've always been around league average.

Part of the reason Gantt is willing to give Gruden praise for records that some coaches would get scolded for revolves around what he's had to work with. Gruden's time as head coach has been filled with injuries and other dilemmas both on and off the field. 

In those circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team completely flounder and spiral out of control. But, that hasn't really been the case with Gruden. Dealing with what he has, the head coach has kept the team competitive for the most part. The team hasn't been a perennial playoff contender, but it also hasn't been at the bottom of the league.

For that ability to keep the Redskins out of the basement despite all the problems he's encountered, Gruden is someone Gantt respects.

"They're able to keep it out of the ditches," Gantt said about Gruden and former NFL head coach John Fox, who Gantt followed during his time in Carolina.

"I think again in the NFL there's something to be said for that," Gantt added. "When things get sideways a Jim Zorn can lose control in a hurry. I feel like Jay just got sort of a steady hand on the wheel."

Until Gruden takes Washington back to the postseason, the critiques will continue to come, as they would for almost all head coaches in similar situations. But when looking at Gruden's time in Washington with a wide view of everything that has happened, Gantt believes the head coach deserves at least a little praise for keeping things afloat.

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