The Camp Battles series rolls on with a look at the Wide Receivers. If you missed the earlier posts, they are below:
- Redskins Training Camp Battles: Tight Ends
- Redskins Training Camp Battles: Running Backs
- Redskins Training Camp Battles: Defensive Backs
- Redskins Training Camp Battles: Defensive Line
- Redskins Training Camp Battles: Offensive Line
In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins started to lay the foundation for what would become the deepest receiving core Washington has had in 20 years when they drafted the big possession wide receiver Leonard Hankerson in the 3rd round and the speedster Aldrick Robinson in the 6th round. In 2012, the Redskins continued to add talent but this time they did so through free agency. First, they signed the explosive Pierre Garçon away from the Indianapolis Colts. Then, they signed a possession wide receiver in Joshua Morgan away from the San Francisco 49ers. Lastly, they signed Dezmon Briscoe who was a touchdown maker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after he was released.
This was the Redskins wide receiving core in 2012 along with the holdover Santana Moss who has been with the Redskins for 7 years. The 2013 season will be the second year in a row that this wide receiving core will be together and playing with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. For this reason the Redskins receiving core has the potential to not only be the deepest receiving core Washington has had in 2 decades, it has the ability to be the most solid group in the NFC East, health permitting.
The 2012 receiving corps could be considered a disappointment if you only look at the stats. They actually were worse in 2012 stat wise than they were in 2011. The Redskins had the 14th best receiving group in 2011 and in 2012 they fell to 21st. As we always say though, stats don’t always tell the entire story. In the case of the 2012 Redskins wide outs, the rankings definitely lie.
The Redskins prized free agent signing in 2012 was wide receiver Pierre Garçon. He came in right away and established himself as the Redskins number one receiver when he had an electrifying 88 yard touchdown in the first game of the season versus the New Orleans Saints. The problem was Garçon injured his foot on that very touchdown catch and run. Due to that nagging foot injury Garçon missed 6 games and he was never the same after that injury. Despite missing 6 games and being slowed by his injury, Garçon still totaled 44 receptions, leading the team with 633 receiving yards and had 4 touchdowns. If you project his 2012 stats over a 16 game season Garçon would have totaled near 70 receptions, 1,100 yards and 7 touchdowns. It was thought that Garçon would need to have foot surgery this off-season, but has thus far avoided it because there is no guarantee it will correct the issue. It is believed that if Garçon continues to rest his foot that he will be near 100% by the time the season starts. The Redskins will probably not force Garçon to rush back too soon this off-season because thy want him to be as close to 100% as he can be for week 1. If Pierre can get fully healthy, he could easily be the #1 receiver this team was missing during most of the middle of last season.
Joshua Morgan was brought in from San Francisco to challenge Santana Moss for the Redskins other starting wide receiver job opposite Pierre Garçon. He showed enough to win the starting job because of his tough catches over the middle and his blocking for our number one ranked run game. Morgan led the team in receptions with 48, had 500 yards receiving and 2 touchdown receptions despite playing the entire year with torn ligaments in both hands that required surgery after the season. On top of that he also played with an ankle that still wasn’t 100% after breaking it while playing for San Francisco in October of 2011. In mid January he underwent surgery on his right ankle. It was clear when watching Morgan in 2012 he lacked the burst he had in previous seasons with the 49ers. The surgery Morgan had was to remove a plate and seven screws and to clear up loose particles in his ankle. Morgan could be taking on a bigger role in the offense this season.
The third wide receiver who plays in the slot for the Redskins is Santana Moss. Because Moss was the teams third wide receiver last year his receptions and yards were down from previous years when he was a starter. Moss did excel at catching touchdown passes in 2012 though, as he led the team with 8. He also became RG3s go to guy in key situations and more often than not he delivered.
Leonard Hankerson is the Redskins 4th wide receiver on the depth chart. He is entering his third season out of the University of Miami and all signs point to Hankerson having a for breakout season. Hankerson has the most potential to be a number one game breaking NFL pass catcher. At 6’2, 210 lbs and possessing 4.4 speed, Hank also has huge hands and has all the tools that this team has been missing for 20 years. Hankerson has falsely gotten a bad rap for dropping passes. Since he entered the league he actually leads the team in lowest pass drop ratio per Pro Football Focus. Shanahan also says he does all the little things well that he likes to see in his receiver, especially his blocking. Hankerson’s development has been slowed by circumstances that are out of his control in his first two NFL seasons. He hasn’t had a full off-season since he was drafted in 2011. In his rookie season, the NFL locked out the players and then prior to the 2012 season Hankerson had off-season surgery that limited him during the summer. The 2013 off-season will be his first full summer program which could easily help with development and lead to a quicker start to the season. Many believe that Hankerson will be pushing for a starting job by the end of training camp this year.
The Redskins actually had four receivers go over 500 yards last season despite rushing the ball more than any other team in the NFL and leading the NFL in rushing. Garçon, Morgan, Hankerson and Moss all turned in plus 500 yard seasons thanks to even ball distribution by RG3 and Kirk Cousins. This point drives home the fact that the Redskins finally have playmakers at wide receiver to have a good passing attack. The top four guys have all shown flashes of being legitimate threats when on the field.
After their top four wide receivers the Redskins still have young talent. They have the potential of a young speedster and spark plug receiver Aldrick Robinson, the size and potential of the 23 year old Dezmon Briscoe, and the newly re-signed former fan favorite from the 2011 training camp, Lance Lewis.
This Redskins unit has it all: size, speed, hands, game breaking speed, elusiveness, and the thing Mike and Kyle Shanahan covet most in receivers – yards after the catch. If they can all stay healthy, there is no reason to not expect bigger and better things from this group in its second year together.
While the 2012 receivers were good, the 2013 group has a chance to be great.