There are 88 players on the roster of the Washington Redskins right now, but the team will have to trim down to a final roster of 53 before the start of the 2016 season. Here is an early look at what that roster might look like, position by position. This time we cover the wide receiver. Likely starters in bold.
POSITION: WIDE RECEIVER
ON THE ROSTER: Jamison Crowder, Reggie Diggs, Josh Doctson, Pierre Garcon, Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris, DeSean Jackson, Rashad Ross, Valdez Showers, Dez Stewart, Jarvis Turner
LIKELY TO MAKE THE ROSTER: Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Pierre Garcon, Ryan Grant, DeSean Jackson, Rashad Ross
ANALYSIS: The Skins now boast a receivers corps compared to the best in the NFL. The leader is Pierre Garcon, tops among the wideouts with 72 catches for 777 yards and six touchdowns. The Skins would like a similar number of catches and touchdowns from Garcon in 2016, but for more yards. Garcon averaged a mere 10.8 yards per reception and didn’t have a single catch of 40 yards or more. Everyone understands Garcon is basically a tough possession receiver at this point, but he’s got enough speed to make more plays downfield than he did last year. He needs to get that yards per catch average over 12 at the very least.
DeSean Jackson missed basically half the season after not conditioning properly in the offseason and it hurt Washington’s offense. When Jackson is in the game, the passing offense can be deadly. Even playing half a year Jackson still caught 30 passes for 528 yards, four touchdowns and over 17 yards per catch. His 53 receiving yards per game was second on the team to TE Jordan Reed, so when he was healthy and playing, Jackson was still very valuable. When Jackson and Reed are on the field together, defenses are forced to decide whether they want to double Jackson to prevent the 65 yard touchdown catch or double Reed to prevent a series of 16 yard completions over the middle of the field. If the Skins can get at least 14 healthy games out of DJax in 2016, their passing offense will probably be in great shape.
Both Jackson and Garcon are 29 years old and going into the final year of their contract. At least one of them won’t be back next season and both want one last big payday before Father Time unceremoniously kicks them out of the NFL, as he has done to so many terrific wide receivers. Both players have enormous incentive to stay healthy and play well.
Jamison Crowder set a franchise record with 59 catches by a rookie. The fourth round pick from Duke exceeded almost everyone’s expectations, taking the slot receiver job from Andre Roberts [since released] and never giving it back. Among receivers with at least 20 catches, Crowder’s 75.6 percent catch ratio was second on the team to only Reed. That’s not too surprising, I suppose, considering Crowder caught most of his passes near the line of scrimmage, but the point is he didn’t drop passes and he consistently got open. Crowder’s 606 receiving yards was third on the team and his yards per game was fourth on the team. Crowder quickly became an important part of the team’s passing attack and that role figures to grow in 2016.
Josh Doctson, Washington’s first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the 22nd selection overall, missed most of his offseason work dealing with minor, if nagging injuries. Nevertheless, he appears to be healthy for training camp and should see plenty of action in camp and the preseason. Doctson has height no other wideout likely to make the roster has and demonstrated impressive playmaking abilities in college at TCU. At the very least, Docton should see plenty of action in the red zone where his height and size should be a big advantage. While he’s likely to be a reserve in 2016, expect Doctson to be a starter in 2017.
Ryan Grant has looked very good in two training camps and two preseasons, but when the real games are played, he mostly just disappeared. With Jackson missing virtually the entire first half of the season, Grant had a big opportunity to step forward and claim more playing time, but he wasted that chance and did very little. He is a nice route-runner with good hands and head coach Jay Gruden is a fan of his, but he lacks special speed or size and sooner or later he needs to produce in the regular season.
Rashad Ross is sort of Grant’s opposite in that he’s got fantastic speed, but hasn’t been much of a route runner and has yet to prove he has mastered the wideout position. He’s had another offseason to work at it and if he’s figured it out, he should have a place on this team because his speed makes him special.
The other receivers on the roster — Diggs, Harris, Showers, Stewart and Turner — are all at least six feet tall, with Diggs standing six feet and four inches. It’s likely only an injury will clear a space for one of them to make the roster.