The battle for the final two or three wide receiver spots on the Washington Redskins' roster will likely be one of the more intriguing storylines to watch as the regular season inches closer.
This competition is something that wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard has enjoyed throughout the offseason, and looks forward to when the team begins training camp at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
"You’ll see all of our guys making a concerted effort to get it done," Hilliard said. "The guys that are expected to clean it up are guys like [Brian] Quick, [Robert] Davis, and Mo [Harris], some of those bigger guys. We expect them to clean it up on edge and on the interior on the safeties and we’ll see that translate to the passing game.”
The high level of competition amongst the younger receivers adds more potential to how the Redskins' offense can grow this season. As Alex Smith has said, there isn't going to be a grace period for this offense in his first season with the team. Regardless of which receivers do make the roster, the expectation is that they will be able to understand how the Utah product works as a quarterback and goes through his progressions in order to successfully move the offense.
Hilliard is also excited to have so many of his young guys working with an established player in Smith because it pushes them to work at a higher level.
“He’s [Smith] a pro’s pro. He’s easily going to make us better," Hilliard said. "I think our group will benefit greatly from his experience, which is a plus for us. We’re a younger group in terms of the years and playing experience. We’re looking forward the change and the opportunity of playing with Alex.”
One of the major changes that Hilliard has noticed throughout the offseason is how his group has been able to stretch the defense. This is due in part to the signing of Paul Richardson Jr., who has said repeatedly that the defining ability that he can add to this offense is attacking the football. The Redskins will welcome that special ability back to their offense after DeSean Jackson's departure last season to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I think that if you looked at our group over the years, we’ve got considerably taller. We have to take advantage of those skill sets," Hilliard said. "It’s nice to have a guy like Josh [Doctson], Paul Richardson plays long and Jamison [Crowder] even though he has that smaller stature he plays long, Mo Harris, Brian Quick and even some of the younger guys are making plays. I think the confidence from the quarterback to throw the ball out there in those 1-on-1 opportunity long situations and seeing the guys coming down with those plays is real gratifying so far and hopefully we can continue to do that.”
Smith continues to change the narrative on him as a conservative passer, as he finished third overall in passes completed of 40 yards or more in 2017. The veteran's ability to consistently launch the ball down the field could allow the Redskins to become one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFC. Of course, training camp will play a big part in establishing chemistry among the receivers and the La Mesa, Calif. native, but all signs point to them being greatly ahead of schedule.
“I think it’s been really good," Smith said. "We’ve had great work. I think we’re ready for this. We were ready for OTAs. We got a lot in, Phase 1 and Phase 2, we got a lot of reps in, QBs and receivers working on timing, so I think we were ready to kind of introduce the defense, and this is the next step in our progression. Talking, communicating as we see things together, reacting, thinking the same way, seeing the same thing, so this certainly is the next step for us in that progression.”