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Washington Redskins: Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Wide Receiver

Marcel DavisCorrespondent IJune 16, 2014

Washington Redskins: Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Wide Receiver

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    USA TODAY Sports

    After leaning on the strength of their running game to support franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III over the past two seasons, the Washington Redskins are poised to air the football out in 2014.

    With a receiving corps that boasts players like Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and DeSean Jackson, Washington certainly has cause for doing so.

    But while the top of the team's receiving depth chart is all but setjust follow the moneythe bottom couldn't be any more in flux.

    Rookie Ryan Grant and holdovers Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson, Santana Moss and Nick Williams are engaged in a fierce competition to fill the three remaining spots on Washington's depth chart.

    Who will prevail?

    Let's find out. Here is the breakdown of Washington's depth chart at receiver.

Honorable Mention

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Recovering from the torn ACL that prematurely ended his 2013 season in Week 11, Hankerson is in a tough spot in the ongoing competition at receiver.

    While his maddening bouts of inconsistency have been wiped off his slate due to the hiring of Jay Gruden, Hankerson isn't going to make a lasting impression on his new coach from the sidelines.

    With that said, expect Hankerson to land on the physically unable to perform list once training camp is underway in a move that best serves both parties.

    Hankerson would be given additional time to round himself into top form, while the Redskins could further sort out their logjam at receiver without cutting ties with the receiver.

    In the case of Williams, he seems destined to be on the team's practice squad.

    Williams spent time there during the 2013 season, and it's a logical landing place for him in 2014especially since his skill set is shared by others on the depth chart.

6. Ryan Grant

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    Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    The Redskins' fifth-round pick in last month's draft, Grant is a player who profiles to be a slot receiver on the NFL level.

    Lacking in speed and slight in build, Grant has a ways to go before he's ready to fill that position for Washington.

    Considering that veterans like Roberts and Moss are already capable of manning that spot, though, it's likely that Washington was aware of this fact when it selected him in the draft. 

    Without the expectation to play immediately on offense, special teams is the lone place Grant has to contribute to make the team—by virtue of his draft position.

    Already being utilized on kickoff coverage, according to CSNWashington.com's JP Finlay, Grant appears to be on his way to securing that spot.

     

     

5. Aldrick Robinson

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    More athlete than receiver at this juncture of his career, Robinson will have to polish his receiving skills if he's to make headway on the promise he flashed at the end of last season.

    In the final four games of the 2013 campaign, Robinson tallied 11 catches for 213 yards.

    Where the major problem with Robinson lies is in his route running. As ESPN.com's John Keim noted, there was a disconnect between Robinson and Griffin last seasonspecifically on shorter routes.

    "Sometimes Robinson would get to his landmark before Griffin could throw the ball," Keim said.

    Describing problems that speed receivers often run into, former Redskins receiving coach Mike McDaniel captured a weak spot in Robinson's game when speaking with Keim.

    "A lot of times for guys with his speed it’s tough to manage their speed, to understand when to use all of it and when not to," he said.

    Battling it out with a player like Moss, who has mastered the nuances of playing receiver, Robinson will be stuck in the No. 5 spot until he learns to harness this abilityif Hankerson impresses upon his return, Robinson may even be off the team entirely.

4. Santana Moss

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    The elder statesman of the Redskins' receiving corps, Moss can count Father Time as one of the adversaries attempting to end his stay in Washington.

    Set to enter his 14th NFL season, Moss no longer has the quickness to consistently separate himself from defenders. During an underwhelming 2013 campaign, this much was evident.

    Sporting Charts reveals that after catching 66.1 percent of the passes he was targeted on in 2012, Moss only caught 53.8 percent of such passes last season.

    Fortunately for Moss, another player vying for the No. 4 spot (Robinson) performed even worse in 2013. Robinson only caught 39.1 percent of his targeted passes last season.

    Ultimately, Moss' saving grace is his reliability. He'll find the open pocket in zone coverage and, most importantly, he can be counted on to be in the right place and run the right route.

    Whether it's because they're unproven or just inconsistent, you simply can't say that about the young receivers Washington has competing with Moss.

    Gruden said it best. "[Moss] is another one that’s going to help this team out,” he told Keim in early June.

3. Andre Roberts

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Although Roberts told ESPN 980's Inside the Locker Room (h/t ESPN.com's John Keim) that he had designs on being a featured receiver when he signed with Washington, he'll again find himself as his team's No. 3 wideout.

    Cast in a similar role last season in Arizona, Roberts tallied 42 receptions and 471 yards.

    While such totals would be deemed disappointing in Washingtonespecially in light of the contract he received this offseasonthey do eclipse the numbers Moss posted last season in a pass-heavier offense.

    Another area Roberts bested Moss in last season was drops. Sporting Charts indicates that Moss had seven drops in 2013, while Roberts only had one.

    Younger and better at separating himself from defensive backs than Moss, Roberts is a cinch to man the slot for the Redskins in 2014.

2. Pierre Garcon

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Despite setting the franchise record for receptions in a season, Garcon is no longer Washington's top threat at wideout.

    That title now belongs to Jackson.

    While Jackson's signing would seem to signal a significant drop in production for Garcon on the surfaceSporting Charts indicates that he was targeted a league-high 181 times last season, after allthe move could make him a more efficient receiver next season.

    With Jackson stretching the defense, Garcon can now operate in the areas he had the most success in last season, According to Football Outsiders' Rivers McCown, Garcon thrived on short and intermediate routes:

    PIERRE GARCON'S SEASON BY FIELD ZONES

     


    Likelier to be matched up with opposing teams' No. 2 corners in light of Jackson's arrival, Garcon's effectiveness against man coverage should also improve.

    After catching roughly 46 percent of his targets (94) versus such coverage in 2013—according to McCownGarcon's catch rate should now closely mirror the 56 percent catch rate he posted against zone coverage last season.

1. DeSean Jackson

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Lacking the mobility he exhibited during his rookie season, Griffin was heavily blitzed in 2013.

    After only throwing 92 passes versus the blitz in 2012, he threw 156 such passes last season—and that was in four fewer games.

    With Griffin's mobility a looming question until he proves otherwise, you can count on this occurring again in 2014.

    Enter Jackson.

    For the Philadelphia Eagles last season, Jackson's effectiveness against the blitz was a godsend for Nick Foles.

    Jackson accounted for over 30 percent of Foles' completions against the blitz, tallying 23 receptions, 410 yards and three touchdowns.

    Further validating Jackson's hold on the No. 1 spot is his penchant for big plays.

    Jackson hauled in eight passes of 40-plus yards in 2013. In his two seasons in Washington combined, Garcon only caught four such passes.

    With Jackson leading the charge, expect the Redskins to field one of the top passing offenses in the league next year.

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