Been noticing a lot of posts that aren't directly related to the WR position turn into discussions centered around the WR issues for our beloved Skins. Can't say I blame any of you. Let's face it, we have a problem. No better place to start than here for the latest in our hard-hitting, awe-inspiring, but most importantly, italicized Boldly Hoping series.
We tend to love our running game in D.C., and rightfully so. We believe in it. Even when Mark Rypien was throwing bombs in '91, lighting up defenses with the long ball, we had one hell of a rushing tandem with Earnest Byner and Gerald Riggs. As exciting as the deep ball became during that season, watching Gibbs send in Ricky Ervins to change it up, and Gerald Riggs to pound it in near the goal line was the meat that stuck to your ribs as fans. The pride that players who have come through D.C. have taken in the running game, as well as the satisfaction the fans have enjoyed while cheering on the Terry Allens, Kelvin Bryants, Stephen Davis', Joe Washington's, etc. is what has defined Redskins football. Clinton Portis was a wet dream type of acquisition when he came here. But the balance between the air and ground attacks that makes you a contender has been inconsistent, even nonexistent at times.
During last year's draft, we were all shocked when Vinny used all three 2nd round selections on pass catchers. Each of them were distinguished collegiate athletes. Each of them had unmistakable talent. Each of them came with question marks, and one year later, we still have questions.
Devin Thomas was the first one we took. What's not to love? (I had some awful slide show before...here is a somewhat choppy video that still shows off his skills.)
I thought, here is a guy who acts like a running back when he gets the ball. He has speed, strength, and size. He can be a true difference-maker on the opposite side of the field of Santana Clause.
Next came Fred Davis. Red-zone potential. Big body. But can he rush the passer? That was the only thing I could think of when we drafted him...still, his body of work was impressive.
Then we took Malcolm Kelly. Again, Vinny must have had the Kleenex box close by when he watched this video.
Another big, strong, proven wide receiver. Speed and durability were in doubt due to his offseason workouts and knee issues. But still, a red-zone threat for an offense that desperately needed one seemed like a real win for us.
In a very short span, Vinny had overhauled a position that had plagued us for a few straight seasons. How many of you remember watching games in Week 14, 15, 16 the previous few seasons wondering who that was going in motion? Signing guys off the street, or out of retirement to play the following week became rather commonplace. Was this group of rookies the answer?
If you were capable of--for one second--forgetting that we were bad (historically, record-setting bad) at rushing the passer, you may have allowed yourself to get a little giddy about a trio of receivers with this kind of size and ability.
Then came the season. Thomas and Kelly never got out of the blocks in the preseason. Davis never got out of bed. Moss got off to a great start and when defenses focused on shutting him down, nobody emerged on the other side of the field.
Now, this oversimplifies and understates the problem, as well as omits other key factors in our offense's struggles, but the fact is if Kelly, Thomas or even Davis had emerged this season as reliable targets, it likely would have resulted in a playoff berth.
They didn't, and we didn't.
Where do we go from here? When do the highlight videos for these players include footage of them in Redskins' burgundy and gold? I have said it too many times, to the point where even I am sick of it, but it bears mentioning in this post that receivers do take 2-3 years--on average--to "break out". That is no guarantee these guys will, but it is a reason to boldly hope.
One year in the league, one year in the system, one year on the job should net some results. Assuming these guys are healthy, they need to be in the lineup. You'll hear this next thought repeated for other spots on this roster: Out with the old, in with the new. I worry that this team has had a tendency to play older guys simply because they are healthy, and simply because they are getting paid. I think Randle-El is a talented player that belongs in this league. I don't think he belongs on this team though. If Thomas and/or Kelly come into next season neck-and neck for the #2 job with Randle-El, the temptation to play the veteran will be overwhelming. I say remove the temptation (someone has to be willing to give us a draft pick for him, even a second day pick, right?). We already have a studly, smallish, elusive playmaking wideout in Santana Moss. If anything, bring in a middle-tier free agent receiver for insurance. I love what Yoder has done for our team. He will most likely be back. But it should be him on the inactive list week in and week out next season--not Davis.
Hey, these guys have to be healthy and they have to commit to learning how to be pros. That is some bold hoping indeed. But there could be a real payoff for us coming sooner rather than later. We absolutely HAVE to add an impact offensive lineman and and impact pass rusher in this year's draft. If we do, the window for this team may be getting ready to open.