It is important for wide receivers to get separation.But for most of the past month none of the five players chasing after the remaining wide receiver jobs with Redskins has been able to gain any separation from the pack.That is, until last Saturday.Since the spring, the identities of the top four wide receivers have been known. They gave Pierre Garon and Josh Morgan big contracts. They have been waiting to see Leonard Hankerson reach his potential since his season ended prematurely with a hip injury last year. And if there were any doubts about the 33-year-old Santana Moss, long the teams leading receiver, he put them to bed by showing up 15 pounds lighter and catching everything in sight.Most figure that the Redskins will carry six wide receivers this season. The number is not set in stone; last year they had seven wideouts on the roster for most of the year plus return specialist Brandon Banks. But they could do that in part because they only carried two quarterbacks and it seems nearly certain that both Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman will back up starter Robert Griffin III.If we go with six wide receiver roster spots there are two up for grabs. And through training camp and the first preseason game, none of the five realistic candidates for those two spotsBanks, Anthony Armstrong, Aldrick Robinson, Terrence Austin, and Dezmon Briscoeperformed well enough to put in a legitimate claim on one of the two jobs. They all had enough good moments to stay in the conversation but enough negative plays on film to keep the competition wide open.That changed on Saturday night in Chicago. Robinson caught six passes for 104 yards and touchdown. Briscoe had 51 yards on three receptions including a nice grab at the goal line for a touchdown. And Banks didnt see any action at receiver but he helped himself with a 91-yard punt return.Meanwhile, Austin caught just one pass for 11 yards and Armstrong, still ailing from a shoulder in jury that kept him out of the first preseason game, played very little.Robinson seems to have helped himself the most of all, at least in the eyes of Mike Shanahan. On Monday and again on Tuesday the coach raved about his touchdown catch and run, which came on a deflected pass.It looks like Robinson took a giant step towards earning a roster spot and Briscoe and Banks helped their cases a great deal. And it looks like Armstrong and Austin are on the outside looking in. Nothing, however, is set in stone. Armstrong should get more playing time against the Colts and over the past two years Austin has had a knack for coming through with a good performance just when he needed it most.The competition will continue through practice next week and the preseason finale against the Bucs. Making the final decision here will have the coaches up late into the night.
The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.
That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
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Will the Redskins go with a defensive player in the first round of the 2017 Draft?
Finlay: The Redskins haven't drafted a defensive player in the first round since 2011 when the franchise grabbed Ryan Kerrigan with the 16th pick. In fact, the team has only drafted five defensive players in the first round over the last 15 years.
History suggests Washington will stay away from a defensive player, but sources in Ashburn have suggested otherwise. Assuming the talent is there when the 'Skins pick at No. 17, Scot McCloughan would like to bolster the team's defensive line specifically.
Things will get complicated should Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook slide to 17. Rich Tandler certainly would like to see the Burgundy and Gold add a top-flight running back.
Tandler: Many fans believe that conducting a draft is like going into a grocery store with a list. Defensive lineman is at the top of the list so you go to aisle 12 and put a DL in the cart. Safety is next on the list so you push the cart over to that aisle and pick out one of those.
No, a draft is much more unpredictable. There might not be a defensive lineman who is close to worthy of the No. 17 pick when the Redskins are on the clock. Talk of taking the best available player is like fingernails on a chalkboard to some. But if you’re reaching for need in a draft, you’re losing that draft. Sure, if a player in a position of need is just a spot or two down from the best available you think about it. Still, staying true to your board is the way to build a team.
The other thing to consider here is that we haven’t gone through free agency yet. Needs will shift after that. Suppose the Redskins sign two starting-caliber D-linemen and lose both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson in free agency? Defensive line is no longer a five-alarm priority and receiver will be.
More offseason questions:
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Twice in the last five seasons Pierre Garçon logged more than 1,000 yards receiving as a member of the Washington Redskins, including the 2016 season. He's caught 376 passes in Washington for 21 touchdowns over 74 games.
Outside of a foot injury that cost his six games in 2012, Garçon has been arguably the Redskins most durable wide receiver, and he's known to be a hard worker in the weight room and the practice field.
Despite all that, Garçon doesn't know that he will be back with the Burgundy and Gold once free agency opens. In fact, that uncertainty led the 30-year-old wideout to post a simple question on his Instagram page.
The top of the Redskins offseason questions remains QB Kirk Cousins. Garçon and fellow wideout DeSean Jackson are headed for free agency, as is standout defensive lineman Chris Baker. Reports show that the team has made little to no contact with any of the players or their representatives, though many conversations could be planned for the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis later this month.
Garçon's question seems simple, but the answer remains a mystery.
Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!