Over the next few weeks, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will evaluate each position group’s performance in 2016, break down the current personnel situation and look forward to the unit's outlook for 2017.
2016 starters: Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder (slot)
Backups: Maurice Harris, Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross (waived), Josh Doctson (IR)
Free agents: Garçon, Jackson
Rewind: For the first time since 1999 the Redskins had two receivers go over 1,000 yards in a season. Garçon had the second-best season of his nine-year career with 79 receptions for 1041 yards and three touchdowns. It was his best year since he broke the team record for receptions in 2013. As usual, he was Mr. Consistency for Washington. He had fewer than four receptions in a game just twice and he didn’t have more than seven in a game.
Jackson was not as consistent—he missed one game and had fewer the four receptions in seven of them—but he was explosive. His line was 56/1005/4 and he led the league with an average of 17.9 yards per reception. Of his 56 receptions, 25 percent (14) went for 25 yards or more. Many contend that he could have had many more big plays but Kirk Cousins sometimes misfired when he was open or went elsewhere when Jackson appeared to be the better option.
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Crowder actually played more snaps (781) than Jackson (712) did. Through the first 11 games he was on pace to join the 1,000-yard club but he cooled off towards the end of the season. Still, 67/847/7 is a very respectable line. He also was an asset as a punt returner, averaging 12.1 yards per return and scoring an important touchdown against the Ravens.
There were high hopes that Doctson could be a big-time third down and red zone target but the Achilles problem kept that from happening. While his rookie year certainly was a massive disappointment it’s far too early to refer to him as a draft bust.
Grant played in 16 games and he caught only nine passes. They like his run blocking and that’s fine but when he is on the field it’s almost like the Redskins are playing with only four eligible receivers on the field. That’s much easier to defend.
While the arrow on Grant’s career appears to be pointing down, Harris’ could be going up. The undrafted free agent was promoted to the 53 when Doctson went on injured reserve. He immediately became active on game days over Ross, who eventually was released. Harris only had eight receptions but he made some tough catches and showed promise.
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Fast forward: Besides the Kirk Cousins contract saga, no free agency decisions are more talked about and more critical to the team’s short-term future than what happens with Garçon and Jackson. When I wrote about the salary cap situation at the wide receiver position last week I said that the I saw the probabilities of each of four possible outcomes in this situation in this order, most likely to least likely: Garçon stays, neither stays, Jackson stays, both stay. From what I am hearing today I’ll stick with that but “neither” may be gaining on the lead.
The question is, what happens when these scenarios unfold?
If one of Garçon or Jackson stays—This is fairly simple. They would have Garçon/Jackson as a starter along with Crowder and Doctson. Harris would have a shot at the No. 4 receiver slot. Grant could stay as the fifth or perhaps the team would look for a draft pick to give them a more dynamic option.
If both Garçon and Jackson leave—This would create a “code red” situation for getting a starting caliber wide receiver. Doctson and Crowder would be a good start. But they would have to add a veteran in free agency or hope they can find another Crowder in the draft. The desperate situation they would be in with both veterans gone is the main reason why I think that keeping one of them is the more likely scenario.
If they both return—As I explained in the salary cap post, keeping both of the veterans would be difficult because Crowder is going to be due a solid payday as early as next year, when the CBA allows his contract to be renegotiated. But if they do the only problem will be finding snaps for Doctson and that’s a pretty good problem, to have.
2017 Position outlook series
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