ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have started work on rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins' game, needing to get him ready for a possible starting role. He's working on footwork in the pocket and while dropping back from under center. They've focused on his movement under pressure. They'll continue to test his knowledge of their offense -- and the defensive looks he'll face.
But a big part of any early -- and future -- success lies in the talent around him. And for Haskins to maximize his value, the Redskins need more help from their receivers on the outside.
The Redskins' receivers ranked 31st last season in gains of 20-plus yards. They were 28th in third-down catches. The Redskins lacked a consistent weapon. That doesn't mean one won't develop this season; it does mean they need someone to become that player.
A young quarterback who plays from the pocket benefits greatly from having targets who win at the line.
"Do they have enough weapons on the outside?" ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick said. "That in third-and-3 or third-and-6, situations when you know he'll get pressured, can they beat man-to-man? Or will he be sitting there holding the ball and getting his head knocked off? That's the part that will cause me the most pause. That's why I said I'd like to see him sit. I don't know if Washington has that part; I don't know if he has those guys who can win one-on-one, and that's what scares me. ... Let him sit until you feel you have that part of it covered."
Josh Doctson, entering his fifth season, has caught a combined 79 passes the past two years. He made some tough contested catches last season, but also needs to improve getting off the line against man coverage. With Jamison Crowder now with the New York Jets, Trey Quinn takes over in the slot. Quinn isn't as quick as Crowder, but showed flashes last summer and offers more size. He showed an ability to create enough separation at the top of his break to win; however, thanks to injuries, he was limited to three games last season (and nine catches).
"Jamison made a lot of plays for us," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Those guys are critical for a quarterback to be successful. Trey has to prove himself over and over again."
The Redskins signed the speedy Paul Richardson last offseason to provide big plays. But he hurt his collarbone in training camp, then his knee early in the season and was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 5 with only 20 receptions.
"People seem to forget about him coming back," Gruden said.
Washington also drafted Terry McLaurin (third round) and Kelvin Harmon (sixth round). McLaurin offers speed -- and, according to Pro Football Focus, Haskins' passer rating was a personal best 153.8 when targeting McLaurin at Ohio State. Harmon's physical style will help at the line -- if he proves worthy of early playing time. The Redskins do expect McLaurin to provide immediate help. Gruden liked McLaurin's ability to win at the line during the rookie minicamp this month; he'll get a stronger test next week at the mandatory minicamp when cornerback Josh Norman -- who has not been at the organized team activities -- likely returns.
After the draft, Gruden said it was "a little early" to answer whether McLaurin could become a go-to receiver.
"He's obviously got the potential and that's what we're looking for," Gruden said. "Eventually he could grow into that, but we have some good receivers here still. We have some receivers in-house that are going to push the envelope and try to be that go-to guy, not to mention [tight ends] Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and [running back] Chris Thompson."
All three would be security blankets capable of making plays for Haskins. Also, in an ideal situation Gruden would like the Redskins to be a dominant run team with a strong defense. That always eases a rookie QB's NFL baptism.
When healthy, Reed remains productive and wins quickly at the line. On third downs last season, Redskins tight ends were tied for fourth in the NFL in catches and tied for sixth in first downs. But this is a big key for Reed: It's the first offseason in three years he hasn't needed extensive rehab. Last year, he didn't start running until July and took time to regain his explosiveness at the line and in his breaks.
Thompson also remains a weapon, especially in the screen game. But he has missed six games each of the past two seasons; he's a help to a young quarterback both as a pass protector and as a target. And second-year running back Derrius Guice excited the coaches last summer with his early work in the pass game before his torn ACL.
But the Redskins will need someone from the outside group to emerge as a reliable target. It will make life easier on Haskins -- and the Redskins' offense.