The Redskins head into 2012 with a reshaped receiving corps, as they went out and signed Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan via free agency, and look forward to a full season of Leonard Hankerson to go along with veteran Santana Moss. The question becomes though, how the Redskins can best utilize and spread the ball around among these four receivers.
Typically a team (especially one that utilizes the TE position) really splits their receiving targets among their top three receivers, with their 4th, 5th, and 6th (if they carry six receivers) may combine for fewer than 20 targets. Now that obviously varies by team, and is based on injury and personnel. Even when a 4th wide receiver is involved in the offense they may be lucky to get 30 targets. The Redskins though are probably looking to split their targets more, given the money spent on Garcon, Morgan and Moss, and the 3rd round pick used on Hankerson.
Last year the Redskins receiver targets (by percentage) were actually on the low side, as just 58% of their total targets went to receivers. Though it is easy to say that that number will rise this year, I don’t know if I’d expect a dramatic percentage increase. Fred Davis, who finished third on the team in targets, missed four games due to his suspension, and surely would have seen more targets had he played (and they definitely weren’t going to Logan Paulsen who had just 8 targets in the final 4 weeks). In addition to Davis a healthy Chris Cooley should see an increase on his 13 targets. Also, newly converted TE Niles Paul could see more targets than you’d expect for a third TE, given his mismatch potential. It’s also quite possible that Roy Helu and a healthy Tim Hightower see additional targets as well.
It’s hard to say what the plan to split up the targets will be, and in reality a lot will come down to who is open, and how much time Robert Griffin has to throw. But I still think it is safe to say that the hope is the receivers take a higher percentage this year, but I really see it capped at about 60% of the targets. If we assume that the Redskins will have 550 targets (honestly I think it will be less given a rookie QB, but they have thrown the ball a ton since they have played from behind and their running game has struggled), that means 330 of those targets will go to the receivers. The question is now, how those will be split up?
I’ll say that 10 of those receiver targets will go to the 5th and 6th receiver, leaving 320 targets among the top 4. While that splits to a nice even 80 per guy, that would be a horrible split given the resources used. Instead I see the targets split up in the following way:
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Pierre Garcon: 105 targets (32% of receiver targets)- Garcon was paid pretty well, and while not a true number 1 receiver, the Redskins are going to try to feature him. He looks to be their deep threat, which actually could work against him, as the offensive line will limit how often the Redskins can throw the ball deep.
Santana Moss: 95 targets (29%)- Moss figures to work prominently in the slot, which should help keep his target numbers high. He’s got the most overall experience and time in the offense, both of which a rookie QB will find quite helpful. He’s likely to run more shorter, underneath routes and figures to be a nice safety net.
Josh Morgan: 75 targets ( 23%)- Morgan wasn’t given a $6 million average to just sit on the bench. I expect him to play outside quite a bit and get near starting level of targets.
Leonard Hankerson: 45 targets (14%)- Hankerson might have the greatest upside, but he’s also the cheapest and least refined of the 4 receivers. Will the Redskins really allow a guy they are paying $6 million+ to get fewer targets? Hankerson should see a lot of his time in the red zone where he could be a threat. It’s not an ideal situation having him low man on the totem pole, but the Redskins may be forced to bide their time with Hankerson.
Obviously these are just educated guesstimates, and it’s likely the best receivers will get the most playing time/targets, but since these receivers are so close in terms of talent I could see a breakdown similar to this. I know many will be disappointed with Hankerson’s spot on here, but Morgan and Moss will be given every opportunity to win a greater role over Hankerson, given both their contracts and experience. Given their cap situation, this is likely Moss’s last season, and Morgan is only signed for one more year after this, so my guess is Hankerson will be expected to be ready to really shine in 2013 and beyond. .
What do you think? Based on 550 targets, how many do you see going to the receivers, and how will they be split up?