The Redskins’ leading wide receiver from 2018 has not come close to fulfilling his 2016 first-round draft promise.
The highest paid target of the bunch remains sidelined while recovering from a collarbone injury that derailed his first year in Washington.
Expectations exist for two second-year players despite them combining for nearly as many injured reserve stints (3) and games played (4) as rookies.
Speaking of rookies, two players drafted in April have good shots at making the Week 1 roster. That is promising for the future, but first-year wideouts haven’t exactly thrived in Washington lately.
Therefore it’s fair to suggest the receiver unit is the most unsettled on the roster, right, Jay Gruden?
"Yeah, you could say that,” the Redskins head coach said after Wednesday’s Organized Team Activities (OTA) session, “but I think based on what I’ve seen out here it’s the most exciting group to me.”
There is indeed a half-glass-full element to the group despite losing slot starter Jamison Crowder and having only one player with more than 20 receptions last season. With so much unknown, one can focus on the hope of potential over the fears of inexperience.
The headliners, as it were, are holdovers Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson. That’s not a tandem putting fear into defenses based on their careers to date. Doctson, who paced the Redskins receivers with 44 receptions and 532 yards last season, has zero 100-yard receiving games in his three-year career. Maybe that changes in 2019.
"Yeah, I’ve been impressed with Josh,” an optimistic Gruden said Wednesday. “Really, he’s come out. He’s come to work every day. He’s been in all the meetings. He’s running. I think when the ball’s in the air he’s been making plays left and right. I’m Josh’s biggest supporter up here and I’m really, really hopeful that he comes through in a big way this year.”
Granted, off-season hope ran high for the 6-foot-2 target entering last season. Then came a rather pedestrian campaign followed by a big organizational decision. Washington declined to exercise Doctson’s fifth-year option, meaning he becomes a free agent in 2020.
“It’s a big year for [Josh], we all know contractually, but for this football team for us to have success, we need his input. We need his production,” Gruden said. “I think this is going to be a big year for him. If he has the year that I think he should have, then our offense should really take the next step."
The passing game needs more than just a Doctson breakout. Washington signed Richardson to a lucrative contract in 2018, but he had 20 receptions in seven games before landing on IR with a broken collarbone. Richardson is not expected back on the field until training camp. When the time comes, he projects as the Redskins' deep threat.
Trey Quinn and Cam Sims, unfortunately, arrived on IR before Richardson arrived. Both suffered similar ankle injuries in Week 1 after beating the odds to make the 53-man roster. Quinn returned during the season only to land back on IR in December.
“That’s a record, huh? At least it ties a record,” Quinn said of his two IR stints. “Not a lot of rookies get to break records in their rookie year.”
The SMU product finished with nine receptions – or nine more than Sims. Yet despite those microscopic stats, expectations are high for both.
The hulking Sims, one of last summer’s breakout players, flashed his size-speed combination during Wednesday’s practice for several impressive grabs.
“That was the main focus of [OTAs]. Just picking up where I left off, (but) getting better and staying focused,” Sims told NBC Sports Washington.
Quinn, perhaps generously listed at 6-feet, 200 lbs, is the favorite to replace Crowder as the starter in the slot
“He’s confident, he’s quick, he’s got strong hands, he’s physical, [and] he’s tough,” said a gushing Gruden.
Third-round selection Terry McLaurin is the most interesting newcomer and the wild card to any perceived hierarchy. Another rookie, sixth-rounder Kelvin Harmon, could easily grab a roster spot – and help replace the departed Maurice Harris -- if his impressive hands wow the coaching staff.
Gruden’s review of the receivers also included a pair of undrafted free agents, Steven Sims and T.J. Rahming. When Gruden mentions an off-the-radar player unprompted – think rookie Rob Kelley and Sims last year – said player requires closer inspection.
"I'm going to be honest -- they look like they've been in the league for a couple of years, honestly," running back Chris Thompson said of the youthful receivers. "All the rookies, even the undrafted guys. I'm excited for all of them."
That’s probably the case for this entire group. Nobody should expect Art Monk, Gary Clark, and Ricky Sanders, but there better not be comparisons to Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. In May, hopes are high especially since the possible upside is part of the unknown.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS
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