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Redskins position outlook: Wide receivers

Redskins position outlook: Wide receivers

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.

Wide receiver

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

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

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Dwayne Haskins took the first-team reps in practice on Wednesday and Bill Callahan was impressed

Dwayne Haskins took the first-team reps in practice on Wednesday and Bill Callahan was impressed

While the Redskins 2019 campaign has not gone as expected, news from Wednesday's practice should give the fanbase a glimmer of hope for the future at the quarterback position.

Starting QB Case Keenum was held out of Wednesday's practice to rest his body. With Keenum absent, rookie Dwayne Haskins took all of the first-team reps. Callahan was impressed with the Ohio State product and pleased with his development.

"Dwayne took all the reps today and it’s invaluable for a backup to take starting reps," Callahan said. "Especially at the beginning of the week in terms of putting your plan together and laying it out there and making all the adjustments, whether it’s new communication, new formations, handling the shift-motion game.

"I thought he did a really good job today, so his growth is starting to show in practice and also in his preparation," Callahan continued. "He’s in earlier, he’s out later, so it’s all coming to fruition. It’s going to take a little time, but it’s good to see him take a major step today in practice."

Keenum wasn't the only veteran to be held out as practice, as running back Adrian Peterson missed Wednesday's practice, too. Interim head coach Bill Callahan held out both players simply to rest their bodies. It's not atypical for veterans to miss Wednesday practices, especially as it gets to the deeper portion of the season.

"Definitely just veteran guys, backing them down and just trying to take care of their bodies a little bit better," Callahan said of why he held them out.

When Callahan took over as interim head coach last week, many expected the team to turn to Haskins as their starting QB. At the time, Washington was 0-5, and both Keenum and Colt McCoy had been largely ineffective under center.

Although Callahan did not immediately turn to the signal-caller, he's at least given a plan of action to develop the rookie, something that was unclear while Jay Gruden was the head coach.

"He will be [the starter] at some point in time,” Callahan said on Haskins during his introductory press conference last Monday. “We’re going to continue to develop him and heighten his maturation process, try to get him on schedule so he is prepared."

Gruden had Haskins running the scout team. Even when Keenum does practice, Callahan has given the rookie at least a few reps with the starters.

"We've got to be conscientious in getting him some repetitions during the course of the practice," Callahan said last week. "So that will a little be a shift in philosophy moving forward."

When Callahan ultimately pulls the trigger to move to the rookie remains uncertain. But with Haskins improving by the day, and Keenum continuing to turn in subpar results on Sunday's, that move could come sooner rather than later.


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Browns GM admits trade talks with Redskins' Bruce Allen but 'takes two to tango'

Browns GM admits trade talks with Redskins' Bruce Allen but 'takes two to tango'

As the days inch closer to the NFL Trade Deadline on October 29th, the Redskins still sit with a giant hole on their roster as standout tackle Trent Williams continues his holdout. 

It doesn't have to be that way, but Redskins Team President Bruce Allen has said repeatedly he doesn't intend to trade Williams this year. And judging by the words from Browns GM John Dorsey right, Allen is telling the truth. 

"We’ve had a few conversations,'’ Dorsey said via "It takes two to tango."

The indication being Allen rebuffed the conversation, which is similar to what sources said during training camp that at least three AFC teams called to inquire about Williams and were told there was no discussion to be had. Well, the clock is ticking, and as each day passes, it makes less and less sense to have Williams in Washington. Or more accurately, to have Williams under contract with Washington but not actually in Washington.

Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan got asked about the trade talks and said quickly: "I don't know anything about that, so we’ll see about that."

The head coach then added, "You’re always looking to improve your roster by any means. Whether you’re acquiring by trade or acquiring it through free agency or obviously guys off the waiver wire, we’re always looking."

Cleveland is certainly interested in Williams, Dorsey made that clear without naming him. At 2-4, his team is underperforming against expectations, and star second-year QB Baker Mayfield has been sacked 16 times in six games. Dorsey knows he needs to bolster the Browns offensive line. 

"It’s a hard position to acquire, especially at this time of year. We’ll make a million phone calls. We’ll constantly work the phones," Dorsey said. "If nothing happens, we’ll move onto the next project. If we think we can improve the position, we’ll make a move if it’s right for this organization."

Compensation will be key as the Williams situation unfolds. The team will want a lot for the seven-time Pro Bowler and some teams might be unwilling to pay with a first-rounder. Williams is under contract for through 2020, but might want a new deal or more guaranteed money in his current contract. 

The calls will keep coming to Ashburn asking about WIlliams. The question will be if Allen will pick them up.