The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out. That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.
In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson in 2017?
Tandler: If you’re reading this you likely are well familiar with the trials and tribulations of the rookie year of the Redskins’ top 2016 draft pick. The bottom line was two games, 31 snaps, and two receptions for 66 yards before being shut down with the mysterious and lingering Achilles issue that kept him on the PUP list during training camp and the preseason.
Despite his minimal practice time and game experience, Doctson goes into 2017 better off than a raw rookie. He had some on-field experience during OTAs (although that also was limited by the Achilles), hours of valuable time in meetings, and a year to observe firsthand how veterans like Pierre Garçon prepare.
So, what can we look for from Doctson in 2017? Looking at recent history, the worst-case scenario is Kevin White, the No. 7 overall pick by the Bears in 2016. He missed his entire rookie year with a stress fracture in his left leg. White was playing well four games into last season but it ended when he suffered another fracture to the same leg plus a severe ankle sprain. In two years, he has 19 receptions for 187 yards.
There is no perfect analogy for Doctson on the positive side during the last few years but perhaps looking at the experience of Davante Parker of the Dolphins could be a good guide. He played in 15 games in 2015 as a rookie but he did almost nothing the first nine games of the season, catching just four passes. He then caught on, catching 22 passes in six games. Last year he caught 56 passes for 744 yards and four touchdowns.
Parker had 87 targets last year, second on the team. Assuming Garçon and/or DeSean Jackson depart via free agency Doctson should get over 100 targets. I think 65 receptions for 850 yards is about right. Doctson should be a prime red zone target and I think that eight touchdowns is a reasonable goal.
Finlay: The only way to anwer this question is to assume Doctson won't deal with the lingering Achilles pain in 2017. Should the Achilles' issues remain, expectations remain modest. But they shouldn't. As Doctson said during the Redskins locker clean out in January, he expects to be ready to go.
A big part of his statistical projections come from what happens with DeSean and Pierre, though it increasingly looks like neither player might be back in Washington. That could change, one or the other might return, perhaps even both, but the odds are shrinking. The other thing that makes projecting Doctson's sophomore season is the question at quarterback. It would be a big surprise if Kirk Cousins wasn't back at least for the 2017 season, but surprises happen in the NFL.
Take all of that - Doctson's health, pending free agency for Garçon, Jackson and Cousins - and roll it up to get an idea of numbers for the former TCU stud. Granted these are college stats from the pass-happy Big 12 conference, but Doctson posted more than 2,300 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns his final two seasons for the Horned Frogs. He has the size and speed to compete in the NFL, and could be the big receiver the 'Skins have lacked for some time.
Only one rookie receiver cracked the 1,000 yard mark in 2016 - New Orleans' Michael Thomas - so it's hard to expect that from Doctson in what will essentially be a rookie year. Giants wideout Sterling Sheppard might be a good comp for Doctson. Shepard grabbed 65 passes for 683 yards and eight TDs as a rookie with New York. He wasn't the first option for Eli Manning, that obviously goes to Odell Beckham, but he had a strong rookie year.
Doctson could post bigger stats if neither Jackson or Garçon come back, but if he is paired with a veteran wideout, something similar to Shepard looks like an appropriate expectation. No matter what happens with the free agents, the Redskins offense will still feature slot WR Jamison Crowder and tight end Jordan Reed, two players that can be expected to grab somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 passes combined.
My guess for Doctson: 68 catches, 703 yards, 9 TDs.
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