LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 12: Jabar Gaffney #10 of the Washington Redskins runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FedExField on August 12, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins defeated the Steelers 16-7. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
There was plenty of criticism thrown the Redskins way when they brought in veteran receivers Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth this offseason.
Washington went down the aging receiver road before in 2010 when they kept the aging Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams on the final roster. The experiment backfired in a major way as the pair combined for 20 catches in 26 games. Yet that didn’t stop Mike Shanahan from adding a new pair of 30-year-old receivers with pedestrian credentials for year two of his tenure.
Initially, many assumed the Gaffney/Stallworth additions would hamper the growth of the younger receivers on the roster while providing very little in terms of offensive production. But with the regular season fast approaching, it’s beginning to become clear that one or both could prove to be valuable assets for whichever quarterback takes the reins in Week 1 against the Giants.
Gaffney has stepped into the No. 2 wide receiver role right away and quickly established himself as a sure-handed pass-catcher with the size no top-two receiver has possessed in Washington since Rod Gardner. Through two preseason games, Gaffney has six catches for 57 yards in limited action and is all but assured of a starting spot opposite Santana Moss.
Gaffney is coming off a career year in Denver where he had 65 receptions for 875 yards and two touchdowns. He benefited from Denver’s pass-happy attack as he was targeted a career-high 112 times.
However, there isn’t much need to worry about his inflated numbers because the Redskins threw the ball even more than Denver in 2010. This year, Washington will run the ball more often with an improved offensive line and upgraded running back corps, but Gaffney is still a receiver who has always maximized his efficiency on the field.
Gaffney’s career catch rate (the amount of receptions divided by the number of targets) stands at 59.52 percent, the highest among all Redskins receivers. Even with the increased number of targets in 2010, he maintained a solid catch rate of 58.03 percent. Throughout his career he’s been an efficient receiver in several different offenses and, with enough opportunities, will continue to be so with the Redskins.
Stallworth is more of longshot particularly with the emergence of second-year receiver Terrence Austin, but he has done little to hurt his chances since arriving in Washington. He’s personable and engaging off the field and---for a receiver with just two receptions in the last two years---surprisingly crisp on it with four catches in the first two preseason games.
His career catch rate is only 53.02 percent and he hasn’t played a full season since 2007, but Stallworth’s career 15 yard per catch average makes him a notable deep threat in addition to his ability to gain yards after the catch.
The Redskins had been linked to Stallworth in the past, leading some to believe he could be a dark horse candidate to make the final roster. However, he isn’t the possession receiver Gaffney can be, he isn’t the deep threat Anthony Armstrong was in 2010, and Santana Moss led all NFL receivers in yards after the catch last year. It seems every niche is filled and the Redskins have three young wideouts in Austin, Niles Paul and Leonard Hankerson who fit in better with their long-term plans.
Gaffney is expected to be a roster lock since Hankerson and Paul appear to need a year of development. It isn't out of the question Stallworth could make the team, but that would mean Washington risks putting one of their young receivers on the practice squad where other teams could sign them.
Shanahan shocked the world when he kept Williams and Galloway last season, so there’s always the chance Stallworth ends up on the final roster. Regardless of whether he does or not, the front office made the right call bringing in a pair of receivers some teams wouldn’t have dared to bring in after last season’s debacle.