In years past the team would field quality units but some others would suffer due to overspending and/or under-evaluating talent.
As the team’s OTA’s come to an end after next week and training camp approaches next month, the Burgundy and Gold have perhaps their deepest team in two decades. The defending NFC East champions will now be the hunted and won’t have the luxury of sneaking up on their 2016 opponents.
After watching each unit closely during this off-season’s OTAs, it is apparent that McCloughan’s plan of building depth — and maintaining a competitive culture because of it — is starting to manifest itself in Ashburn. Each position group looks markedly improved (albeit players are not in pads and hitting is more controlled).
Regardless, the team has been built with the intent to win and win often.
One of the units that has not had all of it’s main components on display at the same time so far is the wide receivers squad. From a sheer talent standpoint this group should be the team’s most dynamic. When all of the pieces come together the wide outs could be not just the team’s best but one of the two or three best collective units in all of the NFL.
Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson has invoked his player’s union right to skip some OTA sessions that are “non-mandatory” for players league wide. He participated for the first time in sessions this week but was absent again Wednesday (the one day that the media had access).
A veteran player commented that Jackson looked faster than he could remember and caught several deep balls against newly-signed free agent and All-Pro CB Josh Norman, proving that he was in shape and ready to go for training camp.
Even Gruden eluded to Jackson’s presence during his press conference with media.
“He practiced yesterday… had a good day.”
When asked if he wanted Jackson there with his teammates Gruden mentioned that the sessions are voluntary and that Jackson looked good.
“We expect him to be here next week,” he said. “In a perfect world, we know it’s not perfect, but it is what it is, man. We are going to coach the guys that are here. It’s voluntary for these players to show up here. We’d love for them all to be here, but I trust the fact that if he’s not here, he’s getting his body ready to go and he proved that the last couple days. He looked as fast as he’s ever been, had great stamina, was in good shape, had great knowledge of the game and was a lot stronger than I’ve seen him before. DeSean is going to be just fine.”
Veteran Pierre Garçon has been in attendance all off-season and has been his normal workman-like self. He has been shadowed largely by Norman, making for nice battles between two hard working players. Garçon looks ready heading into training camp.
Second-year man Jamison Crowder, who enhanced the slot position for Washington by catching 59 passes last year, has looked every bit the part of a breakout player in 2016. Not to say that his rookie year wasn’t good because it was an eye opening debut for the former Duke Blue Devil. But he could be an intricate part of what Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay throw at defenses this year.
Crowder has opened eyes yet again during these OTAs with his pinpoint route running and quickness.
Fifth-round draft pick (2014) Ryan Grant — who struggled at times in 2015 — looks more comfortable in the offense and, with Jackson’s absence, has received more reps. His route running and hands have always impressed Gruden and this year Grant could be another player who could provide game-time match up scenarios for the Redskins.
Rookie Josh Doctson, who was the team’s first-round pick this past April, has battled an assortment of injuries and has been held out of most sessions.
Although the injuries are not considered severe by any means, the team is being cautious with the former Texas Christian University Horn Frog. When Doctson was able to participate, it was obvious that he had all of the intangibles needed by an elite-caliber receiver. He has great hands, size and the knack of tracking down any ball coming his way. The thought of him pairing with the aforementioned players could be a scary proposition for opposing defensive coordinators.
The team has other receivers who have shown themselves to be capable prospects that could possibly make the roster.
Rashad Ross, who had a sensational preseason in 2015 which carried him onto the final 53-man roster, could be in for a battle during training camp.
A name to remember is Maurice Harris. The former University of California Golden Bear has turned some heads with his play. He possesses great size at 6’3″ and 200 lbs. and has nice hands. He has made plays throughout OTA’s and has gotten the attention of some veteran players.
The 2016 Washington Redskins should be in prime position to put points up on the board and if the wide receiver unit can avoid injuries and come together, they should be a very explosive bunch.