On a relaxed day, not long before the season started, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden sat on a couch near the team’s weight room and imagined something close to perfection.
“I love this group,” he said, talking about his offense.
His offensive line was going to be powerful, he explained. He had three tight ends who could make big catches, he liked his running backs, and he was thrilled with the expectation that wide receiver Jamison Crowder was about to blossom.
“A special guy,” he called Crowder.
Then Gruden smiled. Injuries, he worried, could change his optimism, but at that moment, after a training camp with a quarterback he loves, Alex Smith, and a team that could finally be called his, he seemed content.
“We’ve got everything we need to be successful,” he said.
Less than a month later, after an exhilarating rout of the Arizona Cardinals and an uninspiring loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the home opener — a game in which great swaths of seats went unsold and the story line was fan malaise — the Redskins are taking gambles in the hope of igniting a passing game that has not thrived the way Gruden and the organization hoped. Monday’s signings of receivers Michael Floyd and Breshad Perriman are the kind of big swings the team took in signing running back Adrian Peterson in late August.
All three are players of some acclaim who were unemployed at the time. Peterson, who is now the NFL’s 10th all-time leading rusher, had no other options before Washington called after its second preseason game. The team only signed him after he dazzled the coaches and front office in a workout at the team’s complex. While he struggled in Sunday’s game against the Colts, he was spectacular enough in the Arizona game, with 96 rushing yards and 70 receiving, to be considered a success.
It’s hard to imagine the Redskins will get the same from Floyd and Perriman, both former first-round picks who didn’t appear to have options before Monday afternoon. Neither was considered a surprise cut when they were released Sept. 1. Floyd stood almost no chance of breaking into a deep collection of New Orleans Saints receivers when he signed with the team during training camp, and the Baltimore Ravens had added several receivers above Perriman in the three years after he was selected 26th overall in the 2015 draft.
Gruden said Monday there were “a couple good players” in a group of free agents that worked out for the team that day that included another first-round pick, quarterback Paxton Lynch, and reportedly also had receiver Kendall Wright, yet another former first-round choice who is out of a job. The Redskins signed Floyd and Perriman, but only after ESPN reported they discussed the possibility of trading for gifted but troubled receiver Josh Gordon, who was instead dealt to the New England Patriots.
Washington has not commented on the role either Floyd (who caught 242 passes for 3,739 yards from 2012 to 2016 in Arizona before a DUI led to his release) or Perriman will play. Saints Coach Sean Payton said he wanted to see Floyd “get his weight down,” during training camp. The Ravens were trying Perriman as a gunner on special teams — a role that seemed to be a work in progress given comments by the team’s coaches.
“They’re not better than the first three receivers,” said former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly, an analyst on the NFL Network, referring to Crowder, Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson Jr. “Perriman can at least run, and he gives you something if Richardson can’t play.”
Floyd, however, is a mystery. While the Cardinals cut him after his arrest and he failed to make a big impact in New England or Minnesota (where he played last season), he is just two three years removed from a season in which he caught 52 passes for 849 yards. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Floyd is bigger than most of the Redskins’ receivers.
It remains to be seen if either Floyd or Perriman can make the impact Peterson did in Week 1, but it’s fair to say the Redskins’ passing game is in need of a jolt. Smith found success against Arizona underneath to tight end Jordan Reed and running back Chris Thompson, who at 19 receptions has almost twice as many catches as any other Redskin. But the downfield passing game has been absent through two weeks. The team’s longest pass play to a receiver is 34 yards.
“I think a lot of things, certainly chemistry, rhythm, I didn’t think we had any of that,” Smith said after Sunday’s game. “I didn’t think we were great on first or second downs. We gave ourselves some tough third downs in the first half, then we didn’t convert, so it was tough.”
Neither Floyd nor Perriman might make a difference. Their roles could be on special teams, filling spaces left by ankle injuries to promising rookies Cam Sims and Trey Quinn. But after Sunday’s failure to move downfield well, the Redskins felt the need to hold a workout filled with former high draft picks.
“You’re getting experience. That’s what you are getting at this point,” Casserly said.
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