Let’s face it, if the Redskins are going to make it to the playoffs, and actually get past the first round, they are going to need their wide receivers to play a huge role.
Don’t get me wrong, having the leading rusher in the league (Clinton Portis has amassed 1,206 rushing yards through 11 games, and is on pace to record his best single season total ever) is great, but I don’t think it will get them to the promise land.
Not if they can’t get the ball down the field along the way.
The Redskins rank ninth out of 16 teams in the NFC, with 214 passing yards per game. They are 21st in the entire league, but for the purpose of the article, I'm only concerned with the NFC. Those are the teams they will need to beat in order to get to the playoffs, and to have any chance at the Superbowl.
Their number one receiver, Santana Moss, is having a pretty solid year with 53 receptions, for 773 yards, and five touchdowns, which ranks eighth, seventh, and eighth, respectively, in the conference. He's their best receiver, and always a threat to score deep. Those aren't bad numbers—he accounts for 30 percent of the Redskins scoring—but he's been inconsistent. I believe he will need to average 80 yards and a score the rest of the way if they have any chance of getting deep into the playoffs.
Chris Cooley, the 'Skins pro-bowl tight end, leads the NFC with 60 receptions and 630 yards. That's the good news. The bad news is he only has one touchdown. The Redskins will need to get him more involved in the red zone, if their big receiver, Malcolm Kelly (more on him later), doesn’t get it going.
The only other receiver that has made any impact this year for the 'Skins is Antwaan Randle El. He’s third on the team in receptions and yards, and second in touchdowns. If he can get between 700-800 yards receiving and 5-6 touchdowns, which is very possible, considering the fact that they use him on a lot of gimmick plays, this offense will be dangerous.
Back to Kelly, who finally appears to be healthy. His size and athleticism will come in handy on those fade routes in the end-zone, and those passes up the middle. He needs to step in and produce like a No. 2 receiver. If he can, the Redskins will have that third option, behind Moss and Cooley, they have sorely lacked. If he doesn’t, they are looking at a first round exit again, and that’s if they make the playoffs at all.
Jim Zorn’s offense needs to start running like a true “West Coast Offense” in order for guys like Cooley, Moss and Randle El to be as productive as they can be. Campbell is very efficient when he throws short to mid-range passes, which allows those guys to catch the ball on the run, and make big plays with their legs.
We’ve seen that he can throw the deep ball when needed—see New Orleans game—but in order to do this, he needs to hit those intermediate routes. This is where Cooley and Kelly come into play.
I think they will be the key to the Redskins' passing game for the rest of the season. If Jason Campbell is able to find them in the gaps up the middle of the field, it will draw the safeties in, and allow the deep passing game to flourish.
This is going to be vital for the success of the Redskins down the stretch, considering four of the last five teams they play are ranked in the top fifteen in rushing defense. Not making it any easier, is the fact that Zorn will need to find weaknesses in three of the best passing defenses in the NFL, as the New York Giants, the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles are ranked in the top 10 in that category.
It’s looking like they will need to finish with at least 10 wins, possibly 11, to get one of the Wild-Card spots in the NFC. That means they will have to get one win against a tough team like the Giants, the Ravens, or the Eagles, and so-called easy wins against the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers.
If they’re going to accomplish this, they will need their receiving corps to play above and beyond the level they have so far this season. Campbell will need to be better, and more consistent, as well.
But, like I have been saying all year long, they need the offensive line to give them the time needed, in order for all this to come to fruition.
That should be interesting.