July 11, 2009

Redskins Roster Review: Wide Receivers

For the amount of money and draft picks poured into the position, one would expect the Washington Redskins to have quite a productive corps of receivers. Unfortunately, things haven’t been up to par when it comes to finding reliable targets for Jason Campbell.

Santana Moss is the lone wide out who can strike any fear into opposing defenses, but his lack of size prevents him from consistently getting open. He also has trouble with his focus and can go through stretches where he drops passes.

Despite this, Moss is the ‘Skins best offensive weapon. He is explosive and can make plays from anywhere on the field. He runs good routes and when he touches the ball five or more times in a game, the Redskin offense is much more dangerous.

Moss is often double-teamed and can’t ever seem to stay healthy so he disappears at times, but when he’s rolling it’s tough to stop him.

To be truly successful in the passing game, the Redskins need a big possession receiver to line up opposite Moss. A big second option would give Moss more opportunities to make plays, and give the ‘Skins a wide out who can consistently move the chains on third down.

Last year, Washington fizzled out on most passing downs due to their lack of a receiver who could use his strength to get position on opposing corners past the marker. This year they will need to improve on passing third downs if they want to wear down opposing defenses.

Hoping to fill the role of possession WR are the two second-year youngsters, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. Thomas played in all 16 games last year, catching 15 balls for 120 yards. Kelly hardly saw the field and only grabbed three passes on the year.

Both receivers are well over six feet and experienced success in college. Thomas is still raw, but has improved on his routes. He is more familiar with the system this year, and should improve on his rookie campaign.

Kelly dazzled early last offseason, but a bad knee ruined his 2008 season. He has the build of a terrific red zone target and could develop into the possession threat the ‘Skins want. However, like Thomas, Kelly must prepare with more intensity and be more thorough when it comes to making the transition to the pros.

Both young receivers were overwhelmed by the NFL experience last year and admitted they expected to jump right in. This offseason, they have been reportedly making progress something that is imperative to the success of the passing game.

If neither draft pick pans out, the Redskins will have once again depend on a slot receiver to play in the number two receiver role. Antwaan Randle El is shifty and operates best out of the slot, but a lack of secondary options has forced him to play out of position for the past two years.

Randle El is small like Moss and lacks Moss’ acceleration, making it very difficult for him to break past top corners. A solid bump and run secondary will more often than not render Randle El useless. He is better suited to the match-ups he would face in the slot.

Randle El is effective in the red zone when Jim Zorn moves him around. Randle El is an effective weapon when used in the right circumstances, but the lack of a legitimate number two WR leaves Washington unable to maximize Randle El’s talents.

Behind the first four targets there is little to speak of.

Roydell Williams led the Titans in receptions back in 2007 with 55, but he sat out 2008 with an injury. With his experience, Williams could end up as the Redskins’ fifth receiver on the depth chart.

Free agent pickup Trent Shelton, and seventh round draft choice Marko Mitchell are both hoping to compete for the fifth receiver spot. They are the biggest challengers to Williams.

Several other WRs are roster longshots. Marques Hagans, Keith Eloi, and Jaison Williams make up the rest of the receiving corps, but come september they will be looking for work unless they vastly overachieve.

Overall Grade: D+

Sure Moss is a gamebreaker the ‘Skins, but he’s their only one and not even a top ten receiver in the league. He will have his moments and yet if no one can help create some space for him, there’s no way Washington will become a two-dimensional offense.

The passing game is woeful because there’s no one else besides Moss who even strikes a hint of fear into opposing defenses. They gameplan to stop Moss. Unless Kelly and/or Thomas steps into the possession receiver role, this is a very, very ordinary air attack.


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