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Redskins In Search Of Playmakers

Posted Jan 24, 2012

The Redskins' offense posted just seven plays of 40 yards or more last season. Coaches are sure to keep an eye on playmaking wide receivers at the Senior Bowl this week.


One of the more memorable plays of last season was Roy Helu’s 47-yard catch-and-run that he turned into a touchdown against Philadelphia in Week 17.

It was also a rare occurrence as far as the Redskins’ offense was concerned.

“It was the first time that we caught a pass that we actually ran [more than a few yards] into the end zone,” head coach Mike Shanahan said after that game, a 34-10 loss at Lincoln Financial Field.

Shanahan’s comment highlighted the Redskins’ need for more playmaking receivers on the roster. Big plays were few and far between last season.

Last season, the Redskins were tied for 20th in the NFL with just seven plays of 40 yards or more.

Santana Moss had a 49-yard touchdown catch – from Brandon Banks on a wide receiver option – in Week 14 vs. New England. And Anthony Armstrong had a 50-yard touchdown grab in Week 12 vs. Seattle.

Moss, Armstrong and Donte Stallworth have big-play capability, but Moss was hampered by a broken hand most of the season, Armstrong struggled with consistency and Stallworth only saw playing time late in the season.

Jabar Gaffney led the Redskins with 68 receptions, 947 yards and five touchdowns, but he had just one catch of 40 yards or more all season.

Fred Davis, who was on pace to lead the offense in receptions before he was suspended the final four games, had just two catches of 40 yards.

Rookie Leonard Hankerson flashed potential last year, catching 13 passes for 163 yards before suffering a season-ending injury. And second-year player Terrence Austin was still working his way into playing time last season.

Shanahan was asked at the end of last season if he hoped a playmaking wide receiver would emerge from the current roster.

“You’re always hoping that a difference maker, a playmaker, emerges from your own team,” he said. “But you’re always looking for playmakers...You’re looking for guys who can make plays and go the distance, regardless if it’s a halfback, a wide receiver or a tight end.”

Redskins coaches are at the Senior Bowl this week getting an early look at top draft prospects.

The team has the No. 6 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.

Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon is widely regarded as the top wide receiver prospect in the draft but he may not be available at No. 6. Blackmon caught 122 passes and 18 touchdowns last season and averaged 14.1 yards per catch in three years with the Cowboys.

Two top prospects, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd and Baylor’s Kendall Wright, won’t be playing in the Senior Bowl. In Wright’s case, he is out with an ankle injury.

Floyd would fit the bill of a big receiver – he is 6-3 and 224 pounds – and he averaged 13.6 yards per catch in four years with the Fighting Irish.

Wright, who was Robert Griffin III’s top receiver at Baylor, has blazing speed at 5-10 and 190 pounds. He posted eye-popping numbers last season: 108 receptions for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Among players at the Senior Bowl, Texas A&M’s Jeff Fuller could be an intriguing prospect. He had a standout junior campaign, catching 72 passes for 1,066 yards and 12 touchdowns, but his numbers – in particular his yards per catch and touchdowns – dipped last year.

North Carolina’s Dwight Jones was a two-year starter for the Tar Heels and averaged 14.2 yards per reception. He had 85 grabs for 1,196 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior.

And Houston’s Patrick Edwards posted 89 catches for 1,752 yards – a 19.7 yards-per-catch average – and 20 touchdowns despite a 5-9, 175-pound frame.

Fuller, Jones and Edwards are all on the South squad, coached by the Redskins.