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2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Wide receiver

2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Wide receiver

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts April 27. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

This series started on defense and you can see all those posts here. Last week it was the tight ends and today the focus turns to the wide receivers.

2016 final game starters: Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder

This year was as steady and consistent as the wide receiver group has been in quite some time. Crowder and Garçon both played in all 16 games and Jackson missed just one.

Departures: Garçon (UFA, 49ers), Jackson (UFA, Bucs)

I think that the Redskins went with the theory that it is better to let a player go a year too early than to do it a year too late. Garçon will turn 31 early in training camp and Jackson hits 31 on December 1. Neither was going to sign a one-year contract so the reasoning was that while they might have been better off having them around this year, their deals will start to look a lot worse in 2018 and 2019 as the receivers age.

Projected 2017 starters: Crowder, Josh Doctson, Terrelle Pryor

Doctson and Pryor don’t have the NFL resumes that Garçon and Jackson do but it’s not unreasonable to think that there won’t be a huge drop off at this position.

In his first full season as an NFL receiver after spending three years trying to get a foothold as a quarterback, Pryor caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns. He did this although the Browns started three different quarterbacks and a total of five attempted 10 passes or more.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 8.0

Doctson was the team’s first-round pick in 2016 and his injury problems are well documented and he played in just two games. His ability to bounce back and live up to his potential is one of the make or break factors in this year’s Redskins offense.

Crowder led the team in touchdown receptions last year and he will be good for 60-70 receptions for 800 yards.

2017 reserves: Maurice Harris, Ryan Grant, Brian Quick

Grant has had his chances to get a foothold on the field in his three seasons but he just hasn’t been able to. In three seasons, he has played almost an thousand snaps and he has 39 receptions for 412 yards and two touchdowns. Grant stays around because he works hard and is willing to do the dirty work like run blocking.

MORE REDSKINS: Team announces preseason opponents

The team will be very interested in seeing what the 6-4 Harris can do. Last year he was in the crowd of undrafted free agents just trying to make the team. This year he will get some prime reps with the first-team offense in OTAs and in training camp.

Quick was a disappointment with the Rams, who took him in the second round in 2012. At 6-4 he fits right in with the Redskins' new look at receiver and perhaps he can keep the momentum going from last year, when he posted career highs in receptions with 41 and receiving yards with 564.  

Where can the wide receivers find improvement?

This year the Redskins became the first team in NFL history to lose two 1,000-yard receivers as free agents in the same offseason. In 2016, the wide receivers gained a combined 3,100 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. Improvement will be hard to come by. If they can meet that level of production, or even come close to it, they will be happy.

Much will be expected of Doctson. His ability to use his height and high-point the ball to make impossible catches made him a first-round pick. If he can get 50-60 receptions for 700 yards or so in what essentially will be his rookie season the team should be happy.

Harris should be able to take the next step and get 40-50 targets as the fourth receiver. That would translate into 25-30 receptions, more than they got from him and Grant combined last year.

With 10 draft picks there is a good chance that one of them will be a wide receiver. It seems likely that any receiver taken will be a more of a late-round project so don’t look for immediate impact from the draft.

Locks and bubble players

Pryor, Crowder, and Doctson are locks. Harris land Quick probably are, too. That will leave Grant on the bubble, possibly competing with a draft pick for the final roster spot. 

(Note: An earlier version of this post omitted Quick.)

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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'Just plain dirty': Trevor Matich blasts Keanu Neal after hit on Jordan Reed

'Just plain dirty': Trevor Matich blasts Keanu Neal after hit on Jordan Reed

On Thursday, the Redskins earned their first preseason victory of the season, defeating the Falcons 19-7 on the road in Atlanta.

But after the game, celebrating an exhibition win was not in the cards. Attention was turned directly to the health of Washington's star tight end.

After absorbing a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from Falcons safety Keanu Neal in the second quarter, resulting in his helmet flying off, tight end Jordan Reed was forced to exit the contest. No. 86 started feeling concussion-like symptoms at halftime, and head coach Jay Gruden confirmed after the game that Reed had entered the concussion protocol.

The tight end has a history of concussions. If diagnosed with a concussion again, this would be the seventh documented instance for Reed since he started playing college football.

On Redskins Postgame Live, saying that NBC Sports Washington's Trevor Matich was furious about Neal's hit would be an understatement.

“Just looking at that hit, I thought it was a dirty hit. It was dirty," Matich said. "The safety coming up had plenty of time to see what was going on. Reed was in the grass. Reed didn’t duck his head down, and ended up taking a helmet to his head because of a defender coming in low and didn’t expect Reed to duck."

Matich completely put the blame on Neal and emphasized that there's no place for a hit like that, especially during exhibition football when the games don't count in the standings.

"Reed didn’t duck his head. That defender came in high," he said. "That was a dirty hit. It would have been dirty in the regular season, and especially dirty in the preseason.”

The play resulted in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. But it's fair to question whether Neal deserved a harsher punishment.

Santana Moss was asked whether he thought Neal should have been ejected for the hit, and he had no doubt in his answer.

“It should have been," Moss said. "I saw last week in a preseason game a guy had one shot to the head and he was out of there."

Inconsistent officiating has been an issue in the NFL for several years. 

As the league continues each year to alter the rules in order to make the game safer, Moss wants to see the officiating improve its consistency as well.

"That’s one thing I wanted to see, that our officials do better," Moss said. "We talk about all the rules they are changing and the way they’re going to ref these games. When you see something like that, instantly get the guy out of there. This is something that we’re not trying to tolerate. If you allow guys to do this, you’ll find guys in situations like Jordan Reed.”

The NFL continues to try and make the game safer. Many rules have been put into effect recently to eliminate hits like Neal's. Of course, defenders largely dislike these guidelines, claiming it takes away from their ability to defend receivers. Some fans may dislike the lack of contact as well. 

“It takes away some spectacular hits that fans want to see," Matich said.

But at the end of the day, the NFL is a business. 

"Ultimately, this is family entertainment in the NFL. Head trauma is not good for business," Matich said. "It’s just not. You have an expense of losing some of those fantastic hits, but you also have fewer concussions and problems."

While Neal's hit may have been deemed acceptable and regarded as a great hit a decade ago, there's no place for a hit like that in today's NFL.

"I thought that hit right there was just plain dirty," Matich said.

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Cassanova McKinzy brave in face of stepbrother’s death with standout performance vs. Atlanta

Cassanova McKinzy brave in face of stepbrother’s death with standout performance vs. Atlanta

In the Redskins' 19-7 preseason victory over the Falcons, outside linebacker Cassanova McKinzy arguably solidified his spot on the 53-man roster. 

The former Auburn linebacker recorded three tackles and two sacks, one of which resulted in a forced fumble. The other, McKinzy blew by the left tackle using a Demarcus Ware-like technique to have a free run at the quarterback.

McKinzy, who is positioning himself to be on an active roster to start a season for the first time in his career, was asked by NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay if any of the coaches had said anything to him regarding his stellar performance and roster status.

"I had a couple of coaches saying 'good job,' but I haven't talked to anyone," McKinzy told Finlay. "I stayed out there a little longer than I was supposed to."

After the clock hit zero and the initial on-field postgame exchanges concluded, McKinzy stayed a little bit longer on the turf. He had to let his emotion out.

Just three days prior, the linebacker's stepbrother had passed away. 

"I haven't cried all week. I haven't let anything out. I haven't told anybody. That was just my time to let it all out," McKinzy said. "I feel a little better, and when I get around my family, I'll feel even better. I'll see them tonight."

Despite his devastating loss, McKinzy was able to stay focused on football. Very few people, if anyone, in Redskins Park knew what the linebacker was going through.

He didn't want anyone to know, either.

"No one really knew. I didn't tell anyone because, at the end of the day, it's still my job," he said. "I don't want any pity from nobody. I just want to go out there and do my job and show that I can keep focus, no matter what's going on in my life."

"I have to do my job," he continued. "In that building, the only thing that matters is football. Everything else, you have to keep outside the building."

The linebacker was able to do just that on Thursday, as his standout preseason continued. In the three seasons since he went undrafted, McKinzy has just one NFL tackle to his name. He's changed his body and gotten quicker, and if this preseason is any indication, he could be a viable pass rusher for the Burgundy and Gold in 2019. 

While No. 58 would not say he dedicated his performance to his late stepbrother, it did give him, if anything, a little extra motivation.

"I would say half and half," on whether he dedicated his performance to his late step-brother. "I came out today saying I was going to work on some things, and I worked on them. I came out and said I was going to start reading, being better with my keys and more consistent running to the ball. Just paying attention to what the tackles were giving me, the whole nine."

While he's likely played himself onto the 53-man roster, McKinzy doesn't believe he's a sure thing yet.

"I wouldn't say lock, I still have a lot of work to do," he said. "It felt real good just to be back out there and do what I know how to do."

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