USA Today

With DeSean Jackson sidelined, the Redskins must turn to kids or risk dropping the ball

With DeSean Jackson out, the Redskins likely lean on Andre Roberts over kids like Jamison Crowder. That's the wrong approach.

Everyone agrees the Washington Redskins do not have an obvious replacement for injured wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The most interesting part of the overall discussion involves how few are focused on Andre Roberts as the main fill in.

The hope is the Redskins coaching staff and decision makers agree.

Oh, those drops. Certainly Roberts' penchant for butterfingers plays a part in stating his role doesn't need expanding even with Jackson sidelined the next 3-4 weeks. Those drops weren't the main factor in the second half fade during the 17-10 Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins, but they earned a healthy slice in the blame game pie chart.

Yet the desire for less or at least no more Roberts involves big picture thinking.

The upside of general manager Scot McCloughan's arrival in January was two-fold. The organization added a highly respected personnel man. Because of McCloughan's belief in building rosters from the ground up, the move also signaled that for once, the Redskins weren't seeking a shortcut. No more random, high cost maneuvers for the sake of flash.

Rosters always include a blend of young and experienced players. The Redskins signed veteran free agents along the defensive line and in the secondary this offseason They also have 18 players with two or fewer years of experience on the 53-man including seven 2015 draft picks.

Nobody ever wants to admit they're undertaking a rebuild. Tickets must be sold and fans aren't keen forking over money in advance if there is no immediate hope. The Redskins are a rebuild and not just because the 0-1 start or seemingly every NFL outlet slots them at or near the bottom of power rankings.

Kirk Cousins might be the answer at quarterback, but odds are the 2016 starter isn't on the roster.  McCloughan made impressive strides in his first season of roster shaping, but he's nowhere close to finished.

Getting younger is one thing. Playing the younger optionss is another. Not all coaches are comfortable putting their future in the hands of kids. This may apply to those coming off a 4-12 season even if they're armed with four years remaining on a five-year, $25 million contract.

If Jay Gruden ends up using Roberts as Jackson's primary replacement, the rationale is obvious. Along with Pierre Garcon, he's the most experienced option of the group and by miles over Ryan Grant, Jamison Crowder and Rashad Ross. The Redskins already have some offensive uncertainty with the right side of the offensive line and at quarterback. Why add more by leaning heavily on a trio with eight career receptions.

The real question is why not.

Those Week 1 drops by Roberts weren't an isolated incident. Though he offers positives in the receiving game, Grant is the better route-runner, Crowder shiftier and Ross offers more pure speed. According to ProFootballFocus via the Washington Post, Roberts averaged less than a yard per route run (0.98) last season. Only four other NFL wide receivers were worse.

Roberts played on 56 of 79 offensive naps against Miami, second-most behind Garcon and five ahead of Grant. Crowder played on 13 snaps. Ross was deactivated, but he's expected in uniform Sunday.

The kids offer potential. The vet adds stability, in theory. The kids will make mistakes. The vet does already. The reality is the playoff future is not now for the Redskins -- and that's fine as long as decisions aren't made thinking the opposite. Playing veterans for the sake of comfort over kids with higher ceilings isn't wise long-term thinking for this scenario. By the way, Crowder and Ross might actually be able to provide the deep threat, a scenario which helps Cousins, running back Alfred Morris and the play calling.

Maybe Roberts starts against the Rams. Maybe he finishes with the second-most amount of playing time again among the wide outs. If the coaching staff views a strategic reason for such deployment in Week 2, go for it. If they lean more on Roberts, hopefully it's not because he's viewed as the safe play. If so, the coaches will have dropped the ball.

You can follow Ben Standig on Twitter at @benstandig or email him at bstandig1@gmail.com


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories