Can Redskins wide receivers produce more?

July 30, 2013

There were times last season when, with Pierre Garcon out of the lineup and Josh Morgan struggling with leg and hand injuries, the Washington Redskins’ most reliable wide receiver was Santana Moss.

That says something about the season that Moss had at age 33 after seemingly being close to being out of the team’s plans. But it also says something about the Redskins’ wide receiver corps, a group that was remade prior to last season. The immediate results of that makeover were mixed.

For the Redskins to be the team they want to be this season, they very well might need more out of their wide receivers. The ideal scenario for them would be for Garcon to remain healthy, for Moss to duplicate last season’s performance and for Morgan to feel better and produce more.

“I watch a lot of football and I see [receiving] corps,” Moss said this week at the Redskins’ training camp headquarters. “I see the Green Bay Packers’ corps. I see the Saints. I see different teams that have four or five guys that can be called upon. Last year we were one of those corps that were trying to be like them. And I just hope this year we take it to the next level.”

The Redskins were very good on offense last season en route to winning the NFC East title and quarterback Robert Griffin III being named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. They were fifth in the league in total offense and fourth in scoring offense. They were first in rushing. But they were only 20th in the league in passing, based on yards per game.

The Post Sports Live crew offers early impressions on the injuries, recoveries and fans from the first week of Redskins training camp. (Post Sports Live)

Garcon and Morgan had been signed as free agents prior to last season to bolster a group of wideouts that had lacked a 1,000-yard receiver in the 2011 season. Yet the Redskins failed to produce even a 700-yard receiver last season. Garcon missed much of the season because of an ailing toe and led the team with 633 receiving yards.

Morgan had a team-high 48 catches. But they produced only a modest 510 receiving yards. The D.C. native had high hopes after signing with his hometown team following four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. But he was limited by his ongoing recovery from the broken bone in his lower right leg that he suffered during the 2011 season. He also hurt ligaments in both hands at different points last season.

“Last year I don’t think I was healthy enough to do anything you were supposed to do as a wide receiver,” Morgan said this week. “It hurt to push off. It hurt to plant and cut. It hurt to catch the ball.”

Morgan said he “went back and forth” all season with the idea that he should sit out long enough to get healthy. But he played on. It wasn’t an easy season for him, especially after he received threatening messages on Twitter for committing a costly penalty late in a loss at St. Louis in the second game of the season.

“It was very frustrating, especially after the Rams game with that type of mistake,” Morgan said. “You just want to shut everybody up: ‘That’s why they brought me here.’ I finished as the team’s leading receiver with receptions and everything. With everything I went through, I still look at that as an accomplishment.”

Morgan said he feels “100 times better” in this training camp than he did at any point last season. He underwent offseason surgeries to repair the torn ligaments in his hands and to have a plate and seven screws removed from his leg.

“I feel like a new man,” Morgan said, “instead of the bionic man last year.”

The Redskins probably would be ecstatic with more of the same from Moss, who led the team with eight touchdown catches last season. The Redskins tried but failed to sign another free agent wide receiver, Eddie Royal, at the same time they added Garcon and Morgan. Signing Royal might have led the Redskins to consider releasing Moss. Instead, the team handed Moss a new, reduced role last season as a third-down receiver working out of the slot.

He thrived in it, reporting to training camp last year in superb shape and going on to produce 41 catches for 573 yards.

“Right now I’m on a team where we have a lot of talent,” said Moss, now 34. “I’ve been on plenty of teams like this. Whatever Coach wants me to do, I’m gonna be ready to do it. I’ve did everything. This is my 13th season. There ain’t nothing I haven’t done. Last year was a challenge for me because it was something different. I enjoyed it and I enjoyed being called on the times they called on me.”

The Redskins also have holdovers Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson and Dezmon Briscoe and they signed veterans Donte Stallworth and Devery Henderson to vie for roster spots.

If Griffin is to continue to develop as a pocket passer in the NFL as he works his way back from knee surgery in January amid so much talk that his style of play must change for him to safeguard himself, he needs as many dependable options as possible among his wide receivers.

“One of the strengths is we have most of the same guys back so that familiarity with those guys is going to be great,” Griffin said this week. “We’ll have a lot of timing, a lot of rhythm together. . . . We’ve got a lot of guys that do a lot of great things and together I think collectively they can be one of the best.”

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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