There have been a number of quarterback controversies in the nation’s capital but could we be seeing the beginnings of a wide receiver controversy? I mean, training camp hasn’t even started and already Robert Griffin III is getting questions on how he is going to keep all his wide receivers happy.
These guys know that there are some weapons around them on the field, so they don’t have all that pressure on them, as well, but also they know when they get the ball, they’re going to have to do something with it, because there’s no guarantee that that ball’s going to come to them 10, 15 times a game. They might only get three, or four, or five shots a game and they have to make the most of that.
History, however, paints a different picture. With DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts brought in to team with Pierre Garcon to make one of the more formidable receiving corps in the league, new Coach Jay Gruden has the weapons in place to run an offense similar to the one he ran in Cincinnati, which ranked in the top ten for points and offensive yards last season.
Expect Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay to run a more traditional West Coast scheme than the one the Shanahans used in Washington, which requires pinpoint precision routes by the receivers and progression reads by the quarterback to find the open man.
Per Mark Bullock, we will likely see Jackson as the “Z” receiver, or flanker, a role not unlike the one A.J. Green had in the Bengals’ offense under Gruden.
The Z receiver is also the starting receiver that is moved around most often. Gruden liked to move Green all over the formation and would often send him in motion to help identify what the defense is doing.
Green was targeted 171 times last season, made 98 catches for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jackson was targeted 119 times in Philadelphia under Coach Chip Kelly’s spread offense, so we could see an increase in the number of times Jackson’s number is called. If D-Jax is targeted close to 150 times in a season, we could see him rack up more than 1,600 yards and double-digit touchdowns. Not a bad fantasy haul for a wideout currently being drafted early in the fifth round as the 22nd receiver taken in mock drafts.
But that increase in targets has to come from somewhere, and that is likely at the expense of Pierre Garcon, who should continue as the split end (X receiver) under Gruden.
The X receiver lines up on the line of scrimmage and as a result faces more press-man coverage. Marvin Jones worked his way up under Gruden into the X receiver role in Cincinnati, running similar routes to the ones we’ve become accustomed to Garcon running in Washington.
Garcon led Washington in targets last season (174) and was second to Houston’s Andre Johnson (176) for most in the NFL. That is also nearly 100 more than Jones saw as the split end under Gruden: 77 targets, 51 receptions, 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. If Garcon is targeted half as much as last season, we could be looking at a 700 yard, three touchdown campaign. Not nearly high enough to justify taking over D-Jax in a fantasy pool.
“At the end of the day, football is a fun game,” Griffin said. “It’s a beautiful game because it’s more than about just one guy. It’s about a team. And when one guy eats, everybody eats. And that’s what we’re looking forward to, having everybody eating at the dinner table and getting some dessert this year.”
Everyone will eat, just don’t expect the portions to be nearly the same.