Earlier this season there was a lot of concern that Josh Doctson wasn’t getting enough playing time to be successful. It started in the season opener against the Eagles when he played just 20 of 63 snaps. The following week against the Rams he was in for 29 of 71 offensive plays.
The light playing time load continued through the first five games of the season as he played 121 of 326 snaps, 37.1 percent. In those games, he had a total of nine targets and four receptions. That’s not per game, that’s total.
Doctson made the most of his chances, averaging 22.5 yards per catch with two touchdowns. But many wondered if the team was wasting the talent of its 2016 first-round draft pick by having him languish on the bench.
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The issue was that Doctson and Terrelle Pryor, a much-hyped free agent acquisition, both were best at the X wide receiver spot. It was hard to get them on the field at the same time. Early in the year, the decision was made to give more run to Pryor. In the first five games, Pryor played 81.6 percent of the plays.
But Pryor’s production was not impressive. He averaged three receptions and 42 yards per game in those five games. In the Redskins’ sixth game, the roles of Doctson and Pryor essentially were reversed. On Monday night against the Eagles, Doctson played 54 of the 64 snaps and Pryor played just 30. In his last four games before going on injured reserve, Pryor played 112 of 261 plays (42.9 percent).
Meanwhile, Doctson’s playing time increased. In the Redskins’ last 10 games, he has played 580 of 629 snaps, 92.2 percent. He has played every offensive play in three games and he missed just one snap in another.
But he has yet to have his breakout game. He has had some good games, like getting four receptions for 81 yards against the Saints. Doctson has had some highlight reel moments like the spectacular catch to set up the winning touchdown in Seattle. But his “wow” moments have been few and far between. He has no more than four receptions in any game. The 81 yards in New Orleans is his season high.
With one game to go, it looks like Doctson’s second season will have to be chalked up as an educational experience.
“I think he’s learning the game,” said Jay Gruden. “He’s learning what the NFL’s all about from a preparation standpoint and from a different route tree standpoint. We all know that he can go vertical and outjump people and it’s a matter of getting him more opportunities in that regard, but it’s also about cleaning up his routes on every given split, every pattern that we have, every concept that we have.”
Hopefully, Doctson was spending his time on the field cleaning up the routes in every concept. The Redskins will need him to be at the top of his game in 2018 whether Kirk Cousins returns as the QB or, especially, if a new signal caller has to be installed.