Something about the Washington Redskins' signings of wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan struck me earlier in the week, so I went back to the transcript of my interview with Mike Shanahan from December and found this quote about what he was looking for in a wide receiver:
"We've got to get a wide receiver that's a playmaker. You've got to have a No. 1, no question about it. We have [Santana] Moss and [Jabar] Gaffney, who's going to be right at 1,000 yards, but you're still looking for that guy that can go the distance and make plays, running the ball on a short shallow cross and go the distance. Everybody's looking for that."
Garcon has not, to this point in his career, been a No. 1. But he's young enough that the Redskins hope he can be. And he brings something to the table that touches on the latter part of that quote. He averaged 5.2 yards after the catch in 2011, and has averaged 5.1 yards after the catch for his career. Morgan averaged 6.8 yards after the catch on his mere 15 receptions in 2011, and his career average is 5.7.
Those are strong numbers, especially compared to the 4.4 YAC average Moss put up last season (down a full yard from his 2010 number) and Gaffney's 2.9. Shanahan's looking for receivers who can help out his rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, by making plays when they get the ball in their hands. And in Garcon and Morgan, he sees a couple such guys.
Eddie Royal, whom the Redskins pursued before he agreed to terms with the Chargers on Thursday night, doesn't exactly fit the profile. He was a 3.7 YAC guy on his 19 catches in 2011, and is 4.7 for his career. But the Redskins believed he was a guy who could man the slot position for them and help in the return game. Moss remains on the roster for now and can work the slot, but if the Redskins are looking to get younger and are in the market for another wide receiver after Royal jilted them, you might want to look at some of the YAC numbers of the remaining available free agents to determine possible targets.
Arizona's Early Doucet averaged 6.4 yards after the catch in 2011. New England's Deion Branch averaged 6.5. Cincinnati's Jerome Simpson averaged 5.4. These aren't names that will fire up the season-ticket phone lines, but Shanahan clearly has specific reasons he targets certain free agents, and this year that YAC number seems to be a big factor for him with wide receivers.