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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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After years of neglect on defensive line, Redskins continue smart moves with Matt Ioannidis deal

USA Today Sports

After years of neglect on defensive line, Redskins continue smart moves with Matt Ioannidis deal

For two decades the Redskins bounced back and forth between neglect and negligence along their defensive line. 

Prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, Washington hadn't selected a defensive lineman in the first round since the 1990s. The team just did not invest in the draft in the interior of their defensive line. During that time, there were some big-name free agent acquisitions up front, but those didn't work out either. In fact, the Albert Haynesworth contract might be the worst in the history of the sport. 

The result, largely, was bad play along the defensive front and an inability to stop the run, and that largely coincided with losing football teams. There is a direct correlation. 

In the last two seasons, however, the Redskins dramatically changed their approach.

In 2017, Washington selected defensive tackle Jonathan Allen out of Alabama in the first round. In 2018, Washington again took an Alabama defensive linemen in the first round in Daron Payne. The team also added fifth-rounder Tim Settle out of Virginia Tech. 

This week news emerged from Ashburn that the 'Skins took care of another defensive linemen, 2016 fifth-rounder Matt Ioannidis, with a three-year contract extension with $14 million guaranteed. 

Of all the moves to bolster the defensive line, the new deal for Ioannidis should make 'Skins fans the most excited. 

When Allen slipped to middle of the first round in 2017, it was a no-brainer to pick him. When the Redskins added Payne last season, he was the highest player on their draft board at a position of need. 

Those moves were good, but obvious. 

Inking Ioannidis to a contract extension was anything but obvious, and that's why this move looks so good. 

This is a late-round pick out of Temple, hardly a football factory like Alabama. Ioannidis was cut as a rookie after his first training camp, and the team signed him back to their practice squad. Eventually, he made the active roster in 2016 and played sparingly in parts of 10 games. He finished that year with seven tackles. 

Then, something happened.

The Redskins developed a late-round pick, and while Ioannidis deserves a ton of credit for turning his body into 300 lbs. of bull-rushing muscle, the organization deserves credit too, particularly defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. 

In his second NFL season, Ioannidis logged 4.5 sacks an 27 tackles in 14 games. Last year, he got 7.5 sacks and 31 tackles in 14 games. 2018 marked the real turning point for Ioannidis. Early on, he ws a beast, and his sack-per-snap numbers ranked among the best in the league. 

Injuries have been an issue for the 25-year-old, but beyond that, Washington was wise to lock Ioannidis up now. 

2019 would be the final season on his rookie deal, and if he performs similarly this year as he did last year, his potential free agent market would have been hot. If he improves this fall, Ioannidis would have commanded a significantly higher deal next offseason than the one he just signed to stay in Washington. 

There's also the precedent that the Redskins front office can identify their valuable young talent and take care of those players. The last two offseasons, Washington has let a number of draft picks walk in free agency. Players like Jamison Crowder, Preston Smith, Ryan Grant, Trent Murphy and Spencer Long are just some of the names. Getting an extension done with Ioannidis reinforces for other players in the 'Skins locker room that the money will come if they work hard and play well. 

Don't forget either that it was head coach Jay Gruden that pushed hard for the team to draft Matt Ioannidis back in 2016. While the head coach faces significant pressure this fall to find a playoff bid, this is a good example of the coach's personnel acumen. 

There's also some long-term roster construction in play. 

The Redskins have three more years of contractual control for 24-year-old Allen, and four more years for the 21-year-old Payne. Now, Ioannidis is under contract for four more seasons. 

That's three high impact players on the defensive line, all under 25 years old, that will be in Burgundy and Gold through at least the 2021-22 season. 

It wasn't long ago that the defensive line was by far the Redskins worst position group on the team. In 2016, they had the worst run defense in the league. 

Credit to the team for fixing that, finally. 

And credit to the team for recognizing young talent, and proactively getting a deal done before Ioannidis hits free agency. 

Redskins fans often say they want their team to do what the good teams do. Here's the formula: find hidden talent late in the draft, develop that talent, sign them long-term. 

With the Matt Ioannidis contract extension, that's exactly what Washington just did. 

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Amidst Jags controversy, Landon Collins goes full Suge Knight to recruit Jalen Ramsey to Redskins

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Amidst Jags controversy, Landon Collins goes full Suge Knight to recruit Jalen Ramsey to Redskins

Even during this relatively quiet period of the NFL calendar, there's still plenty of controversy around the league.

Take Jacksonville for example, where Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey has been firing back at executive vice president Tom Coughlin for saying he wants every player to attend the team's voluntary offseason workouts. Ramsey, as you may have already guessed, has elected to skip these workouts. 

Seeing an opportunity, new Redskins safety Landon Collins invited Ramsey to Washington via Twitter, going into full Suge Knight "Come to Death Row" mode to make his pitch. 

Ramsey seemed quite amused by the prospect, but also didn't seem totally opposed to the idea of teaming up with Collins in D.C. 

While it's unlikely Washington trades for Ramsey, nothing's stopping you from firing up the NFL Roster Builder and putting the two-time Pro Bowler in burgundy and gold, Redskins fans!