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Do the Redskins need to upgrade at wide receiver?

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Do the Redskins need to upgrade at wide receiver?

I was listening to the radio last weekend and the topic of the Redskins’ team needs for this offseason came up. One of the hosts said that wide receiver must be a need because the Redskins didn’t have any receivers break 650 yards receiving (Pierre Garçon led the team with 633) or 50 catches (Josh Morgan led with 48).

But if you just look at the raw numbers you get a distorted picture of the productivity of the team’s group of receivers. You have to consider the fact that only NFL two teams attempted fewer passes than the 442 the Redskins threw in 2012. The NFL average for attempts was 556, about 25 percent more than the number the Redskins threw.

While there are always dangers in playing “what if” with numbers because things can get distorted, let’s look and see what numbers the Redskins’ wide receivers might have put up if the team had thrown more passes.

Here are the Redskins’ four leading wide receivers’ actual numbers and a simple projection of their stats had the team thrown the NFL average of 556 passes:



Even when you look at the projected numbers, no one receiver stands out (we’ll get to that in a minute). But under this hypothetical set of circumstances the Redskins’ quartet would have been one of the most productive wide receiver corps in the NFL.

Looking at the projections, all four of the Redskins’ receivers would have had at least 600 yards receiving. In 2012, no NFL team had four wide receivers gain over 600 yards. Three teams, the Packers (558 pass attempts), Eagles (618), and Saints (671) had four pass catchers go over 600 yards but in each case one of them was a tight end.

Although the projections are hypotheticals, it is fair to say that the productivity of the Redskins’ wide receivers is distorted due to the fact that the Redskins just didn’t throw much.

But what about the lack of a No. 1 receiver? Even if you project Pierre Garçon’s actual numbers over 16 games (he missed six games with an injured toe), you get 70 catches and barely 1000 yards. Those are not No. 1 receiver numbers.

So should the Redskins try to get a 1? Do they need a 1?

The supply of true No. 1 receivers, players who keep defensive coordinators up late at night, change coverages, and put up big numbers despite getting extra attention from the defense, is pretty low. Anybody’s list is going to include Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald (his poor 2012 numbers can be excused by the fact that his team didn’t have a competent NFL QB), Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, A. J. Green, and Julio Jones. Vincent Jackson could be considered to be one, Dez Bryant is on the verge, and Reggie Wayne has been one for most of his career, as has Steve Smith.

So that’s six who are surely 1’s and four more who could be called 1’s. If you want to stretch the definition some more, add Hakeem Nicks, who has No. 1 traits when he’s healthy, and Roddy White, who was a 1 before Jones came into his own and would still be one on many other rosters. Put in a few more of your favorites and you have 15 or so, or enough for about half of the teams in the NFL.

You might note that none of the 1’s played in the Super Bowl. Of the 12 playoff teams only four had a 1. Having a 1 does not lead to success nor is having a 1 necessary for success.

If the sample size here is too small, let’s go back to 2011. Five of the 12 playoff teams had a 1. In 2010 and 2009 it was 2 of 12.

If you can get by without a 1, your capologist will thank you for it. Andre Johnson’s 2013 cap hit is north of $14.6 million, Calvin Johnson consumes $12.2 million of the Lion’s cap, Fitzgerald eats up $10.25 million of the Cardinals’. Others like Green, Nicks, Jones, and Bryant are still on their rookie contracts and will command deals that eat up eight figures annually when they become free agents.

It’s not that the Redskins’ receiver corps can’t be improved. This will probably be Moss’ last year and it is unclear if Aldrick Robinson can replace him in the slot. I’m a little bit higher on Leonard Hankerson than some but he needs to develop consistency in his third season or a replacement will have to be located for him. Morgan needs to step up and he might if the ankle he broke in 2011 is fully healed. In any case, the rest of his contract voids after this season.

But that doesn’t mean that the Redskins have to spend a high draft pick (they don’t have a first) or go out after a high-priced free agent (they are working under an $18 million salary cap penalty).

If a wide receiver is the best player on the board when the Redskins draft, they should take him. If one is available in free agency who fits the offense and is there at an affordable price, sign him.  

If neither of those situations arises, the Redskins will be fine if they stand pat at receiver in 2013. The Redskins won 10 games and the NFC East title with them and Robert Griffin III was among the league leaders in passer rating and yards per pass attempt throwing to this group. It would be a mistake to forego other needs and reach in the draft and spend precious cap dollars to improve a position that is functional. 

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Josh Norman critiques Roger Goodell, fires warning shot about coming penalties

Josh Norman critiques Roger Goodell, fires warning shot about coming penalties

Josh Norman is great talker. He almost always has something provocative to say, and his Bleacher Report interview published Thursday didn't buck the trend. 

Norman's sneering at NFC East receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant drew immediate, look-what-he-just-said attention.

But let's not gloss over the larger theme of this interview: Norman thinks the NFL is headed down the wrong path. The timid path. 

In his five seasons, the Redskins corner has been on the receiving end of flags and fines for taunting and excess contact. And yet he told Bleacher Report that he's never once met commissioner Roger Goodell. 

Asked how he would handle the commissioner job differently, Norman started with interpersonal basics. 

"First, I would change how I handle people. For one, you don't show up anywhere. You don't show up where the players show up. So how are you going to know what they want?"

"If this is the guy who is your commissioner, who makes all these rules, wouldn't you think you'd want to see him other than when you get in trouble?" he continued. "Why would I see you if I'm in trouble—what's the point? Why wouldn't I see you before then so you can eliminate that?"

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But Norman's criticism morphed from finding fault with Goodell to dissatisfaction with the overall evolution of the league.

You're going to recognize this argument. It starts with defensive players lamenting how NFL rules have moved to limit contact, turning guys timid. 

"Now you have to stop and think about it before you actually hit somebody or you're going to get fined," Norman said. "But where's the offense getting fined?"

Then comes the nostalgia for the old days when football players were tough, as opposed to today, when everyone is Mary's little lamb. 

"Playing the way people used to play it in the old days. Like Mike Haynes. Those kinds of guys. Lester Hayes. People who played it with violence and ruthlessness," Norman said when asked what kind of legacy he wants to leave. "Lockjaw. No pussyfooting around. No inching off. None of that softness."

It's that soft mindset of the modern world that's diluting football, and the young guys are part of the problem. 

"We have too many soft guys, too many guys coming up saying, 'I don't know....' Playing their little off, soft technique," he complained. "That's how the soft mind-set of this world has us thinking now."

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This line of reasoning should be very familiar so far, but most that espouse it stop short of saying what they're going to do about it.

Not Norman. 

"You can't touch guys after five yards. ... Screw that! Hands on. Call it if you call it. So what. You're going to have to call it all game."

"I want him to see me with my hands in his face. That's what I want you to see. In their chest, their breast plate, so they cough up air. They skip a beat in their heart kind of thing," Norman said. 

So ... expect some rule-stretching this season? Perhaps against NFC East opponents?

"Trust me when I tell you, it's going to be bad blood this year," he warned. "There's going to be a lot of fines and maybe some suspensions. I'm going to be honest with you: This s--- is going to get really ugly. Because I do have a safety that don't give a f--- and I definitely don't."

"I'm letting all hell break loose."

Well, then. Noted. We'll let the league – and the Redskins – decide how to feel about this plan. 

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

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'I'm letting all hell break loose' – Josh Norman belittles Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr.

'I'm letting all hell break loose' – Josh Norman belittles Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr.

NFC East opponents don't challenge Josh Norman. Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham, Jr. are fake tough, no real threat to him. Not like some other receivers in the NFL. 

At least that's how the Redskins corner described them in a wide-ranging interview with Bleacher Report published on Thursday. 

The gist? The Cowboys and Giants stars get no respect from Norman, though both were involved in memorable feuds with him the past year. 

Norman got his first opportunity to talk trash when asked to do word association with the name "Dez Bryant." He took the opening and returned it for a touchdown. 

"That's a guy. Just a guy. Dez was Dez in 2012, '13, '14. Maybe '14. Now? He's a guy," Norman said.

"He doesn't 'wow' you. For me, he don't. For other guys, he probably will do the worst to them because he'll bully them. But you can't bully a bully. You know what I'm saying? That's why his game doesn't resonate to me."

To jog your memory, Norman and Bryant went at it after the Cowboys beat the Redskins on Thanksgiving last year. Bryant said Washington should get a refund on Norman's contract. There was also drama about whether Norman falsely accused Bryant of threatening to "unload the clip" on him.

Real mature, substantive conflict. 

RELATED: Redskins’ Norman confident that changes will improve defense

The Redskins corner didn't go any easier on Beckham, who of all receivers in the league has had the most explosive run-ins with Norman. 

In fact, Beckham's helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman in a 2015 contest between the Giants and Panthers led the NFL to change rules for ejections. Beckham had racked up three unnecessary roughness penalties in that game. 

"[Beckham] tries to be a tough guy. He tries to put on this persona which he's not. Because he's always going to have his head on a swivel. Always. Always when we play each other," Norman said, suggesting that he's able to push OBJ over the edge and out of control. 

"He's scary like that. He does things that he normally wouldn't do because of all the pressure and added hype that he has to put on his whole persona. He's not this guy. If you go back and watch the games in which we play compared to the games we don't play each other, he's a totally different guy."

"When people get physical, tough, like the Minnesota game, he acts out. He's a kid. He's a big kid, man," Norman concluded.

It must have been an exercise in restraint not to mention OBJ's kicking-net tantrum after losing to the Redskins last year. 

As the interview moved on, there wasn't a receiver that drew respect from Norman until the name Julio Jones came up. Norman got to see the Falcons receiver twice a year when he played for Carolina in the NFC South. 

"Now, that is the ultimate challenge. That's when I can do things in a split-second, a millisecond, just choo-choo-choo," Norman said of facing Jones. He said he's missed that challenge since moving to the NFC East. 

"It's the worst. Because I'm just battling 'guys.' I'm not battling against something I can call 'greatness.' I'm not enhancing my craft. Don't get me wrong. They're tough. But they're not [Jones]," he said. He also named Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Chicago's Alshon Jeffrey as other receivers who could provide a real test. 

But whether those matchups excite Norman or not, he knows they can't touch the hype of NFC East showdowns, especially ones involving Beckham. 

"That game gets so hyped up by the time we play them, it won't even be Giants vs. Washington—it'll be me and him. ... Because now you have us on Thanksgiving Night. C'mon, man!"

The interview ended with Norman looking forward to playing with new Redskins safety DJ Swearinger, who has a reputation as a hard-hitting intimidator.

"Trust me when I tell you, it's going to be bad blood this year. You think the NFC East didn't like each other before? This year right here? There's going to be a lot of fines and maybe some suspensions. I'm going to be honest with you: This s--- is going to get really ugly. Because I do have a safety that don't give a f--- and I definitely don't. And I know they don't have that many people on the offense who do on their side."

"I'm letting all hell break loose."

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