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Despite Offseason Losses, Jay Gruden Likes The Depth At Wide Receiver


Even after losing two 1,000-yard receivers in free agency, the Redskins feel strongly about the talent and depth they have at wide receiver this year.

Anytime head coach Jay Gruden fields a question about a particular wide receiver, he will oblige in answering a few sentences about the player in question. But more times than not, he feels the need to start reciting the laundry list of other receivers on the roster, trying to contain his excitement about the talented group he has.

That happened twice on Wednesday, as he described the challenges in adapting to Terrelle Pryor's long legs and deceptive speed as a quarterback. Then he was asked about newcomer Brian Quick, and how his progression at receiver was coming along. Both times, Gruden eventually lapsed into analyzing the entire crop of receivers at the offense's disposal, and just how hard it will be to narrow them all down.

"We have a number of receivers that are battling," Gruden said. "If we played tomorrow, we could only dress five, it would be a really, really hard decision right now."

As part of the league's new rules approved recently, teams won't have to cut down their rosters from 90 to 75 players after the third week of the preseason. That will give a handful of players – and likely a few receivers, considering how full the room is – an extra week to prove themselves in a game situation.

The preseason is partly what helped wide receivers Kendal Thompson (who has been nursing an injury lately) and Maurice Harris make an impression last year, and the added game could benefit a number of fringe players looking for snaps now, including Matt Hazel, Levern Jacobs, Zach Pascal and James Quick.

"Special teams will become part of that obviously," Gruden said of the decision-making process. "But we have got great options right now and it's a matter of keeping them healthy and giving them all opportunities from now until the fourth preseason game after training camp and seeing who the best ones are, who makes the most plays."

The Redskins have what appear to be a few locks on the wide receiver depth chart now, in Pryor, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder, whose shifty speed might see him move between the slot and outside on occasion.

But other spots on the depth chart appear up for grabs. Ryan Grant has looked sharp in practice as he enters the final year of his rookie contract, and Gruden has continued to praise his route-running ability again.

Quick, who signed with the Redskins in March after a __ seasons with the Rams, boasts more height to an already big receiving core, a factor that may help him as the offseason progresses into training camp and the team determines its red zone capabilities with higher target for Cousins. Still, Gruden will need to see him develop as a run blocker in the coming weeks.

Check out images from the Washington Redskins' offense during their sixth day of OTAs at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

"He had a big red zone catch yesterday on a fade and he has done some good things," Gruden said. "It's just a matter of getting him on the field and finding out what he is good at. He can run, he is big, he is physical. [He's] got to learn who to block in the running game, which he is doing a good job of that, and just continue to work and find a way to fit in."

Harris provides versatility after getting called up from practice squad last year and contributing on some clutch downs. He can work from the outside and the slot and isn't afraid to take a hit over the middle. Meanwhile, there is hope that Robert Davis, the team's 6-foot-3, sixth-round draft pick from Georgia State, can refine his technique as he works with wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard.

Considering the Redskins lost two receivers that accounted for more than 2,000 yards, Gruden remains positive about the assets he has out wide and feels strongly about the depth that he'll carry with him to Richmond.

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