This Week in ‘No Longer an Overreaction’: Redskins in Trouble at Receiver

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Brandon Banks #83 of the Kansas State Wildcats returns the ball while being pursued by Damien Thigpen #25 of the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on September 19, 2009 in Pasadena, California. UCLA defeated Kansas State 23-9. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Though, it’s not exactly news either.  The Redskins have been relative trash at the WR position for about 60% of the Zorn era.  Now, with Mike and Kyle Shanahan in the fold, the Redskins finally appear ready to do something about it.

So far, that something has brought us the release of non-underachiever Marko Mitchell, and the signing of veteran receiving targets Joey Galloway, Bobby Wade, and now Mike Furrey — signed today by Washington.  If the Galloway and Wade signings were signs of competition where there had been none, Furrey seems somewhere between a desperate cry for help and a warrant for the immediate arrest of lazy, underachieving receivers.

It does appear, still, that the roster spots of Santana Moss, Malcolm Kelly, and Devin Thomas is pretty much given, however, at this point, you’d have to think that the playing time that it seemed like they were going to be handed upon the release of Antwaan Randle El in February appears to be very much up in the air.  Neither, according to reports, appears to be making great strides in picking up the playbook and route tree this spring.  And with Moss facing some very serious allegations regarding PED usage, the Redskins are staring an obvious, gaping hole in the roster right in the face.

The Redskins struggled to produce at receiver all year in 2009, but at least the depth was never really a problem.  The Redskins were trying to balance the playing time for Thomas and Kelly as the no. 2 receiver in an offense that couldn’t push the ball into the intermediate field, with the necessity to have Randle El on the field 70% of the time, with trying to find some way that Marko Mitchell could possibly get some looks.  The 2010 Redskins would be lucky to have such a problem.  They’ll likely give one active roster spot at WR to rookie, and prospective special teams ace Terrence Austin — especially with the team carrying so many veteran runners who don’t cover kicks — which leaves four to five spots for players who will contribute to the offense.  Two of those four spots are going to two third-year players who have yet to contribute to any offense, and a third to Moss, who hasn’t been a productive no. 1 WR in over three years.

That leaves just a spot or two for someone who might actually come right in and produce at expected levels, and the Redskins can’t afford to waste yet another WR roster spot on a player who has the potential to be great, but the unfortunate reality of just not producing up to NFL expectation.  In other words: trusted veterans.  I have a hard time imagining that Galloway, Wade, or Furrey is really the answer here.  All three are poor options at this point in their careers.  This seems like an excellent oppotunity to find one of the undrafteds such as Brandon Banks, Shay Hodge, or Anthony Armstrong who have come into camp with plenty to prove, and giving them the chance to invent themselves as the next great Redskin receiver.  I have hope for the future that the Redskins could parlay their investment in Kelly and Thomas into a no. 2 and a no. 3, or perhaps even multiple options as a starter, but the chances of either blossoming into a no. 1 WR at this point are pretty close to zilch.  Obviously, Galloway, Wade, and Furrey — as well as lesser touted career vets as Roydell Williams and Marques Hagans, are all at the point in their careers where the Redskins are probably the last stop before the post-NFL part of their lives.

Furrey gives the Redskins a 12th receiver at their mandatory minicamp this weekend.  There’s no way that they’ll even leave this minicamp with more than ten, and I kind of doubt that Furrey is going to be part of that group.  In other words, his addition to the team for at least this weekend is pretty meaningless.  It’s meaningful, however, for what it signals: that the Redskins simply aren’t happy with what they are getting at the WR position, or for the future of that position.  It means that more spots are open now that the Shanahans have met some resistance trying to indoctrinate the Cerrato-era picks into their more advanced system.  And, once again, it means that oppotunity knocks for those who want to answer it.  While guys like Galloway, Wade, and Furrey might not be the answer to the problems the Redskins have, the Redskins are going to keep anyone who flashes potential of being a number one receiver in the future.

Perhaps that’s why Marko Mitchell is gone.  He might have represented untapped potential, but maybe not anything the Redskins didn’t already have in either Devin Thomas or Malcolm Kelly.  His vacancy gives the ability for the team to quickly develop a new offensive threat, the next Santana Moss, if you will.  Hopefully, the Redskins can find whatever it is they are looking for already on the roster.  Otherwise, they’ll be making the intermediate step of even more veterans getting a look, followed by the seemingly more inevitable selection of a wide receiver with the team’s first choice in the 2011 NFL Draft.

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