At the beginning of camp last summer the wide receiver position looked to be one of the Washington Redskins stronger positions on paper. They had Jamison Crowder coming off of back-to-back seasons where he averaged 66 catches, over 825 yards and 5 TDs. For a primary slot receiver those are really strong numbers. In addition to Crowder, 2016 1st RD rookie Josh Doctson had a promising sophomore season for 35 catches for 500 yards and 6 TDs. Free agent signing Paul Richardson rounded out the starting trio, was coming off a bit of a break-out 44 catch, 703 yards and 6 TD season. Richardson would add back the deep speed ability the Redskins had missed the previous year when DeSean Jackson left as a free agent. Though none of the three had topped 1,000 yards in their careers, it appeared that the Redskins had a young trio of ascending receivers who complemented each other in various ways. Now as the offseason starts that optimism of a quality receiving corps is all but lost, and the Redskins look to have one of the worst groups in the league.
Injuries were the number one culprit to the Redskins receiver woes, as their starting three receivers managed to play together in just 3 total games last year. Richardson led the way missing nine games due to injury, with Crowder close behind missing 7 games an Doctson being the healthiest of the bunch missing only a single game. As if that wasn’t bad enough injuries decimated the Redskins depth at receiver as well. Number four receiver Maurice Harris missed 4 games, 2017 6th rd pick Robert Davis missed the entire season, rookie 7th rd pick Trey Quinn missed 13 games and impressive UDFA rookie Cam Sims missed 15 games as well. While none of the depth receivers would have fully been able to fill for the starters, the fact that they missed so much time as well left the Redskins scouring the waiver wire all season for receiver options. In addition it definitely limited how the Redskins could run their offense.
Injuries to receivers weren’t the only injuries that impacted the Redskins receiver production. Though Alex Smith was in the midst of a disappointing season, the level of QB play feel after he went down with injury Week 10. Colt McCoy’s production was reasonably close to Alex Smith‘s, but he too soon went down with injury, leaving the Redskins receivers to catch passes from Mark Sanchez. Sanchez’s time at the helm was mercifully the shortest with just 42 drop backs, but during that time it was absolutely awful for the Redskins passing game. Josh Johnson improved the Redskins passing attack from Sanchez for the last 3.5 games of the year, but it was still noticeably below the production from Smith and McCoy. Even ignoring the quality of play of the four signal callers, a receiver learning to work with 4 different QBs in a season is pretty unheard of, especially when two of them weren’t even part of the team during camp.
Though it can be tough to separate the injuries and poor QB play out from the Redskins receivers production, you can make a reasonable determination for their outlook in 2019. Crowder’ total production feel mainly due to injury, but he did see his rate production fall in every category except yards per reception which went up to a career high 13.4. Crowder should still be considered a very good slot receiver going forward, but as an unrestricted free agent the Redskins need to decide if they want to pay Crowder the going rate for slot receivers $7-10M a year. Given their cap situation, it’s likely Crowder moves on, leaving a big hole in the Redskins receiver corps.
Richardson had a down year not just in total stats, but his yards per reception dropped from 16.0 to 13.1. His promise of being the deep speed threat the Redskins needed to open up their offense failed to materialize. Now part of the issue was Alex Smith‘s unwillingness or inability to attack deep, as there were multiple times where Richardson looked open on a vertical route only to see Smith dump the ball off or throw an uncatchable pass Richardson’s way. Richardson didn’t fair much better on short or intermediate routes, and overall was not a threat during his 7 game run. Though he should recover from the shoulder surgery to repair his AC joint, injuries are a bit more of a concern for Richardson given that he missed 15 games of 2015 with a leg injury. Perhaps a new quarterback in 2019 for the Redskins can get more out of Richardson, but right now the promise he brought to the team last offseason has definitely faded.
Doctson by comparison had an okay year for the Redskins as he only missed one game, and despite playing one fewer game than 2017 he saw his catches, yardage, and catch rate all go up. His yards per reception and touchdowns went down, but some of that is definitely a result of the poor-to-bad QB play the Redskins had all last season. In many ways Doctson didn’t “regress” like other receivers on the team, but unfortunately he didn’t show much progress either. Even taking into account the poor QB play and the lack of opportunities in the offense, the Redskins had to be hoping for more from Doctson after drafting him in the first round 3 years ago. These past two seasons he’s showed that he can be a competent starter, but not much else. He shows flashes of big time upside, only to see other mistakes cancel that out. Doctson could probably find a top 3 role on a number of other teams in the league, but in just about every case he’d clearly be the 3rd option on that team, and not the top option like he is with the Redskins.
With Crowder likely to leave in free agency the Redskins will clearly need another starter at a minimum, and right now it’s hard to be confident that will come from within the organization. Quinn is a natural slot receiver like Crowder, and he showed some positive production the two games he got to play, but after missing 13 games can the Redskins rely on him to fill that role? On a team with a good number 1 and 2 receiver that might be okay, but Crowder has been the Redskins best receiver the last two years when he’s been healthy, that is a much tougher ask on Quinn. Maurice Harris played some slot last year, but he is a free agent as well and was fairly inefficient last season. On the outside the Redskins have Robert Davis and Cam Sims as back-ups on paper, but both were injured last year and Davis is coming off a serious leg injury and might not be ready for camp this year. Neither one should be counted on for a significant role at this time.
The Redskins outlook right now at receiver is not pretty as they have two nominal starters outside in Doctson and Richardson, but both are among the bottom tier of WR starters in the league right now, with only limited upside at this point to jump up to a higher level. On top of that the Redskins are poised to lose their best and most reliable weapons in Crowder, leaving their receiving corps extremely shorthanded. From a depth standpoint Trey Quinn should probably make the team, but it’s a stretch to rely on him to solely fill Crowder’s role. If the Redskins were to go into the season with Doctson, Richardson, and Quinn as the top three receivers it would easily be among the bottom 5 in the league (and potentially the worst depending on the draft and free agency). Behind them there is no real depth to speak of either, especially from a stand point of guys who could contribute in 2019.
The Redskins have to put some resources into the position this offseason. If they re-sign Crowder they should still look to the deep draft class to add a mid-to-late round option as well. They could opt to try to sign a cheaper receiver than Crowder in free agency, but that probably isn’t the most ideal option given their limited cap space. If the Redskins don’t re-sign Crowder, drafting one-to-two receivers in this class, including one top 3 round option, should be a priority. The Redskins can’t afford to ignore this position if they want to have any semblance of a passing attack this year.