An interesting phenomenon is taking place on the field during Redskins games these days. Washington's wide receivers, whom many have called second tier at best, are finding themselves wide open, which, when combined with their speed, is proving devastating to opposing teams. Thanks to the creativity of the Shanahan system and the plethora of options it creates, the Redskins are currently ranked fourth in the NFL in total offense and are poised to have four receivers finish the year with more than 500 receiving yards for the first time since 2000.
After months of speculation that the Redskins hybrid offense can only be successful with a mobile quarterback like Robert Griffin III, the win Sunday in Cleveland, with Kirk Cousins at the helm, proved naysayers wrong. The strength of Washington's offensive scheme is not the option itself, but the options its inclusion in the scheme permits. The combination of the option with play-action passing in the spread offense keeps defenses on their toes - and their heels - to open up opportunities all over the field. And when the schemes are combined to create play-action calls with backfields set up to look like option or run calls, Washington's receivers are putting themselves in position to make plays.
With opposing defenses biting early to defend against possible option plays, Redskins wide receivers are managing to consistently make use of the open field and get out ahead of the DBs. Four Washington receivers have receptions over 65 yards, and ten Redskins players are averaging over ten yards per catch - that's right, ten, 1-0. Some of the impetus for spreading the ball around comes out of necessity, having lost number one receiver Pierre Garçon for six games mid-season and star TE Fred Davis for the season in game seven, but much of it comes from the scheme allowing the receivers to get open and give the QB choices. Redskins QBs are taking full advantage of the opportunity to share the love, especially among their top four targets.
Josh Morgan is perhaps the poster receiver for short pass element of the scheme and the only Redskins receiver to be targeted in all 14 games this season. He leads the team in receptions with 46 and is still just 11 yards shy of the 500 yard marker while averaging over 10 yards per catch. Morgan also has 189 yards after the catch, ranking third among Washington receivers.
Pierre Garçon who, as mentioned, missed six games in the middle of the season, has 34 receptions for 498 yards and leads the team in yards after the catch with 256. Garçon is Washington's number one receiver and, one could argue, would easily be pushing the 1,000 yard marker had he been healthy for the full season.
Leonard Hankerson is slowly emerging as the team's number two receiver and possibly their biggest deep threat thanks in part to his size and improving ball handling skills. With 36 receptions for 521 yards over 13 games - he received no targets in the opener against the Saints - the second year out of Miami is starting to show signs of becoming the play maker we glimpsed last season before his injury.
Leading the Redskins receiving corps is veteran wide receiver Santana Moss. Moss has been a perennial fan favorite in his time in Washington and those who thought before the season started that he was on his way out are now eating their words. In 13 games - he saw no targets in the Monday Night Football squeaker against the Giants - Moss he has tallied 37 receptions for 525 yards and a team high seven touchdowns.
The Redskins don't have one dominant 1,000 yard receiver, or even two 700+ yard receivers sharing the limelight. They do, however, have four receivers primed to have 500+ yard seasons whose success in the Shanahan scheme is a major part of why teams are starting to fear the Redskins. The Redskins have options on offense, and they're using all of them.