Redskins Need Scale: Wide receiver

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(Updated March 5)

After a momentary (and necessary) breather following the season’s conclusion, it’s time to turn our attention to the Redskins’ roster-building process. It continues in earnest at next week’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where the entire coaching staff will oversee the South team. I’ll be down there all week blogging and writing stories for the paper, so stay tuned.

(Now seems like an appropriate time to solicit restaurant recommendations in Mobile. All are welcome at rcampbell@washingtontimes.com or @Rich_Campbell)

I’ll spend the remaining days preceding the Senior Bowl by examining, in no particular order, the Redskins’ most pressing needs. Let’s start with…

Position: Wide receiver

Level of need: Finding a gas station when the fuel light in your car has been on for the last 25 miles. You can’t go on without it.

Where they stand: The Redskins’ offense was hamstrung by a corps of receivers that lacked explosive play-making ability. Most specifically, they failed to consistently gain yards after the catch.

Consider that the Redskins had only two wide receivers – Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney - who had at least 30 receptions; Moss’ 3.8 yards-after-the-catch average was better than Gaffney’s 2.5. This is my latest favorite stat: 21 of 32 NFL teams had at least two receivers with 30+ receptions and a better YAC average than Moss. A total of 28 teams had at least one receiver that met those criteria. I suppose that’s just another way of saying the Redskins’ passing attack has a ton of room for improvement.

Coach Mike Shanahan was wrong when he said running back Roy Helu’s 47-yard touchdown on Jan. 1 was the first time this season a Redskin carried the ball across the goal line after a reception, but he wasn’t far off. His perception is reality.

Shanahan must find at least one receiver who injects punch into an offense that lacks game-changing players. The Redskins need faster, quicker, more elusive receivers that can consistently beat defensive backs in individual matchups. Moss used to be that player, but those days might be gone after a lackluster 2011 season. The Redskins like Leonard Hankerson to fill that role in his second season, but he can’t be the only one. Gaffney, who is under contract for 2012, can move the chains, but his big-play capability is inconsistent. If he’s coming off the bench, it would be a step forward. Donté Stallworth, the Redskins’ only wide receiver whose YAC average (4.8) was better than Moss’, should be brought back to compete for a roster spot.

The offensive scheme gets players open, but sometimes games are won when a player makes a defender miss or leaps to catch a pass when he’s covered. Washington needs that more consistently, and a talent influx is way overdue. Fortunately for them, the group of receivers scheduled to become unrestricted free agents is deep.

TOP PROS WITH EXPIRING CONTRACTS:

Wes Welker, New England [franchise tagged on March 5]

2011 stats: 122 rec; 1,569 yds; 9 TD; 6.0 YAC avg

2012 Opening Day age: 31

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City

2011 stats: 81 rec; 1,159 yds; 5 TD; 4.4 YAC avg

2012 Opening Day age: 27

Marques Colston, New Orleans

2011 stats: 80 rec; 1,143 yds; 8 TD; 3.3 YAC avg

2012 Opening Day age: 29

Vincent Jackson, San Diego

2011 stats: 60 rec; 1,106 yds; 9 TD; 3.7 YAC avg

2012 Opening Day age: 29

Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis

2011 stats: 70 rec; 947 yds; 6 TD; 5.2 YAC avg

2012 Opening Day age: 26

Others: Brandon Lloyd, Reggie Wayne, Robert Meachem, Plaxico Burress, Mario Manningham, Eddie Royal

TOP COLLEGE PROSPECTS:

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

6-1, 208

2011 stats: 121 rec; 1,522 yds; 18 TD

Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

6-3, 224

2011 stats: 100 rec; 1,147 yds; 9 TD

Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

6-4, 233

2011 stats: 49 rec; 762 yds; 8 TD

Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers

6-2, 215

2011 stats: 115; 1,206 yds; 7 TD

Kendall Wright, Baylor

5-10, 190

2011 stats: 108 rec; 1,663 yds; 14 TD

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