Positional Analysis: Wide Receivers

Big question: How is Coles' toe? One newspaper said there was no reason to worry about his toe because Coles said he can run straightaway with no pain. Are you kidding me?

Strengths: The Redskins have a playmaking wideout in Laveranues Coles. He's as tough as they come and also among the hardest workers on the team. He has a knack for getting open in most situations and has excellent speed. Rod Gardner is capable of a good season, as he had two years ago. He's big and does a nice job catching the ball in traffic. If James Thrash is a team's No. 3 or 4 receiver, then they're in good shape. He's a tremendous worker. He and Coles are adept at the little things, like blocking, that Joe Gibbs loves. Darnerien McCants has shown he can score touchdowns and is a nice weapon in the red zone. His size and athleticism usually result in mismatches near the goal line. Taylor Jacobs has added 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason and clearly looks bigger.

Weakness: Outside of Coles, the Redskins lack a dangerous wideout. Gardner has had a mixed career in Washington so it's uncertain what he'll do. He looked good in camp last season, but didn't do a lot during the year, averaging only 10.2 yards per catch. He rarely did anything after the catch, partly by design and partly as a result of his breakaway speed, or lack of it. Jacobs did nothing last year, a season interrupted by injuries. Is he a bust? Will Thrash have to be more than just a third or fourth wideout? If so that won't help. He's a bit mechanical as a player. Scott Cloman is a nice story, a hard-working player and easy to root for. But his lack of speed likely will lead to his ouster.

How the new scheme will help: Coles has moved to the X spot, where he'll be lined up closer to the quarterback, as opposed to lining up in the slot last year. He's anxious because this scheme should allow the receivers to run more after the catch. Under Steve Spurrier the schemes called for more sit-down routes; if there wasn't a big opening, then the wideouts were smothered quickly. This should help Gardner, too. Also, the new system calls for more ''picks'' by wideouts out of bunched formations. Under Spurrier it was a high-low setup where one wideout would sit low and the other high and whoever was open got the ball. But there was little picking for each other. Having big players such as Gardner, Thrash and McCants will be good for this scheme, too.

Big question: How is Coles' toe? One newspaper said there was no reason to worry about his toe because Coles said he can run straightaway with no pain. Are you kidding me? What does a receiver do most: plant and cut. When did Coles say his toe hurt most: when he plants and cuts. Let's hope this doesn't flare up during the season, but it has the potential to do so. Coles can take more than most players when it comes to pain. But even he can only take so much and his effectiveness could be limited by his toe.

Player on the spot: Rod Gardner. He needs to produce after a mediocre season. Two years ago he surpassed 1,000 yards receiving and was considered a strong No. 2 receiver. He needs to get back to that spot. He and Coles should be helped by Clinton Portis' ability to catch. And a renewed emphasis on throwing to the H-back should occupy the safety for at least a little bit. Gardner is a quality player and will show that this season.


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