The Redskins lost two 1000-yard receivers to free agency this year. The team believed it had ready replacements for Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson in free agent acquisition Terrelle Pryor and 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson.
In Week 1, their replacement plan didn’t work out quite as well as they hoped.
Pryor did put up some numbers on the day, with six receptions for 66 yards. But he could not locate the ball on a deep pass on the first play of the game — a missed opportunity for a play that could have started the game going the Redskins’ way. Later he dropped a 50-yard touchdown pass, although that play would have been wiped out by a holding penalty.
Doctson, on the other hand, was barely visible during the game. He only played 20 of the Redskins’ 63 offensive plays. Even though at 6-2 it’s hard to miss him on the field, he did not get a chance to make a catch or even drop a pass, for that matter. Kirk Cousins threw no passes in his direction.
Jay Gruden said that the plan is to work Doctson, who played just 18 snaps in the preseason and missed a good chunk of training camp after suffering a hamstring strain on Aug. 7, into the offense slowly.
“We’re getting him back in there,” said Gruden. “We’re making sure he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to go and can handle practice after practice, and game after game. We’ll give him more and more reps as the season progresses.”
It’s not only the low number of total snaps, it’s where they came on the field. Doctson was supposed to be a big asset in solving the Redskins’ problems with scoring in the red zone (in 2016, touchdowns on 45.9 percent of red zone trips, 26th in the NFL). But we never saw his ability to high-point the ball on fade patterns and physically beat cornerbacks with his size. He didn’t take a red zone snap. The Redskins were 0-2 in the red zone with one field goal and one interception.
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The plays that most thought Doctson would get went to Ryan Grant, who played 37 snaps. The fourth-year player was productive, catching four passes for 61 yards. He more than halfway to his 2016 yardage production, which was 76 yards on nine receptions.
Grant can be a nice complimentary player but for the Redskins to operate at anything near peak efficiency they need to get Doctson into the flow of the offense. We can accept what Gruden said at face value for now. But if he still appears to be playing on a very limited snap count, say, in two weeks when the Redskins host the Raiders in a game in which they likely will need to score 30 points to win, we can start to wonder if something is wrong.