The Washington Redskins have eight wide receivers on the roster, which is a bit unusual. Most teams carry five to six. But Coach Mike Shanahan said two weeks ago he wasn’t going to restrict himself to a certain number at receiver or any other position for that matter.
If the coach liked a guy and thought he could help the team, he was going to hang onto him.
“We don’t really have a number at each position. Most teams go with six, sometimes five and they might have two on the practice squad,” Shanahan said of the receiver position. “Some teams will go more. You evaluate your top 53 guys and ask, ‘What gives us the best chance to have a solid roster?’ You may take two more practice squad players at a position if you have more depth there.”
But the Redskins this weekend stuck with Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong, Terrence Austin, Donte Stallworth, Niles Paul, Leonard Hankerson and Brandon Banks. They cut seventh-round pick Aldrick Robinson and undrafted rookie Isaac Anderson, but re-signed Robinson to the practice squad.
So what will Shanahan do with all of these receivers?
If the unit maintains its current setup, it will feature three seasoned veterans in Moss, Gaffney and Stallworth, two talented second-year players in Armstrong and Austin, two promising rookies in Paul and Hankerson, and Banks, who really shouldn’t be thought of as a receiver. Banks is an electrifying return man, but got on the field as a receiver only a handful of times last season, and almost never – even before aggravating his knee injury – this past training camp.
Kyle Shanahan runs a lot of three-receiver sets, and it’s apparent he views Moss, Gaffney and Armstrong as his top three pass-catchers. When the “ones” are on the field and in this set, Nos. 89, 10 and 13 have their numbers called.
Stallworth is capable of running with that group and, if he remains on the team, seemingly would be the fourth guy or could sub in to spell Moss, Gaffney or Armstrong.
Austin gives the team another versatile weapon. He’s similar to Moss, but not as experienced and a hair less speedy. The UCLA product as a crisp route-runner, and also is a solid return man. The way things stand now, he’s more of an insurance policy. If Banks’ knee flairs up off and on, prohibiting him from playing, Austin’s the guy.
Then you have the rookies, Paul and Hankerson.
Paul appears to be the more NFL-ready of the two. He doesn’t offer the dynamic playmaker ability of Hankerson, but he is an all-around solid player. He has good size and quickness and good hands, and given his strength, he’s hard for DBs to jam at the line. But the main area he’s likely going to help this team is special teams. He played on nearly every unit (kick team, kick return, punt, punt return) in college, and did the same for Washington during the preseason. NFL insiders describe Paul, who was taken in the fifth round out of Nebraska, as a steal of a deal, and a darkhorse to develop into a real solid go-to guy. The same league insiders say Paul likely wouldn’t have made it through waivers had Washington cut him. Some team would have snatched him up.
Hankerson is a player who really could have benefited from OTAs and minicamps. In camp, we saw him make some dynamic, acrobatic catches. Routine catches were another matter, however. But it seems as if the rookie finally is starting to resolve the concentration issues that hindered him early on. He’s still adjusting to the speed of the game. But Hankerson in time will be a key contributor. The red zone is an area where he can help this team. He doesn’t really play special teams like Paul. But he too wouldn’t have made it through waivers for Washington to place him on the practice squad.
We’ll see how long the Redskins continue to carry this many receivers. If Paul and Hankerson continue to progress in their developments, there’s nothing to say they won’t part ways with a veteran or two. And there could always be a trade or two involving a receiver if Washington looked to use a guy like Stallworth or Austin as a bargaining chip to help upgrade another area.