The Washington Redskins’ offseason push to improve their wide receiver corps goes on full display this week when the team opens training camp at Redskins Park.
The central question — whether the team has made enough improvement at wideout to give sufficient help to prized rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III — won’t be answered until the regular season. The Redskins lacked a 1,000-yard receiver last season and added a pair of wideouts in free agency, Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, who have not had a 1,000-yard season in the NFL.
But training camp will provide a first glimpse of the entire group; Morgan and second-year pro Leonard Hankerson were hindered during offseason practices as they work their way back from injuries. The coming weeks at Redskins Park also could provide an inkling about how veteran Santana Moss will fit in with Hankerson and the newcomers, and about how Griffin will mesh with his receivers.
Going into camp, the Redskins have high hopes they’ve done enough at the position.
“I think we’ve got a lot of young, good receivers,” Morgan said during the offseason. “Everything is going good. We’re learning. We’re getting more comfortable. We’re getting better as an offense and Robert is improving every day. I’m excited about everything.”
Even before they officially selected Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor, in April’s draft, the Redskins went shopping for some pass-catching talent to put around him. They signed Garcon, a speedster who’d spent his first four NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, to a five-year, $42.5 million contract. They signed Morgan, a D.C. native who’d been with the San Francisco 49ers, to a five-year deal with provisions by which it can be voided to a two-year, $12 million pact. They made an unsuccessful bid to sign former Denver Broncos wideout Eddie Royal, but he signed instead with the San Diego Chargers.
The Redskins released wideout Jabar Gaffney, who led the team with 947 receiving yards last season, and now will spend training camp sorting out roles and seeing how everything fits together. Some questioned whether the the team has found a legitimate No. 1 receiver, but the Redskins said during the offseason they liked what they saw.
“They just add another dimension,” veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “Garcon has made a lot of plays in this league. Josh has the potential to be a tremendous playmaker. Hankerson, once we get him back out there, he’s another guy that can get the ball. Santana has made a lot of plays. . . . I just feel like we have so many weapons that we can use in different formations, different schemes, that we can attack each opponent differently each week.”
Garcon usually was a complementary receiver in Indianapolis but had a career-best 947 receiving yards last season, even with the Colts playing without injured quarterback Peyton Manning. Morgan had 15 catches for 220 yards in five games last year for the 49ers before a broken leg ended his season.
Morgan said when offseason workouts concluded that he probably would remain in the D.C. area during the break before training camp to continue his rehabilitation program for his leg. The Redskins also will keep a close eye during training camp on Hankerson, who underwent surgery in February for a torn labrum in his right hip. Team officials are hopeful of getting significantly more production from Hankerson after he had 13 catches in four games last season as a rookie.
“I’m feeling good,” Hankerson said during offseason workouts. “Hopefully it’ll all just keep going smoothly and I get there.”
Moss turned 33 in June and is coming off a season in which he played in 12 games and had 46 catches, his lowest total since a 45-catch season for the New York Jets in 2004. There was speculation during the offseason that the Redskins might have released Moss if they’d signed Royal on the heels of the Garcon and Morgan deals.
But people within the organization say now they still believe that Moss can be an asset and help Griffin. The familiarization process between Griffin and his receivers started during the offseason, and it intensifies Thursday with the opening practice of camp.
“You can’t buy into all the hype,” Garcon said. “You have to learn each other. We have to get our foundation built and set, and then start from there. We have to have a starting point.”