Another day, another week and another potential setback for Josh Doctson, the Redskins first round pick from 2016.
Yes, he played in his
third regular season NFL game on Sunday
, playing 20 offensive snaps and receiving no targets.
Wednesday, he was limited in practice with head coach Jay Gruden telling reporters that “he’s just been tight. Precautionary, this time of week.”
OK, that’s fine. Jay’s probably right that the Redskins are smart to take it slow and there’s no real reason to rush Doctson, if he’s feeling something in a recurring injury area. It’s somewhat normal to have some soreness or “tight” issues.
Doctson certainly could still play Sunday in Los Angeles against Sean McVay and the Rams but honestly – what are the chances that he can not only play, but make a good contribution?
Of course, anything can happen, and if he can play, Doctson could get some opportunities because the Rams will pressure a lot and he’ll get man coverage looks, probably with no safety help over the top and perhaps Kirk Cousins goes to him.
However, if you read between the lines of what Jay Gruden was telling reporters on Monday after a bad loss, it might not matter if Doctson gets more opportunities.
“I think he’s ready to go. I think it is something more that he has to perform and he has to play well to earn more playing time.”
Everything about that quote from Gruden makes sense to me. Except he could have said it better and stronger. He’s saying that Doctson must practice better in order to earn more snaps in the game and therefore the opportunity to get more targets and have plays designed for him as part of the game-plan package.
Seriously – what’s wrong with what Gruden said? Yet some of my colleagues in the media who I love – believe that Doctson should be playing a ton of snaps and be a focus of the offense because he’s the Redskins most talented pure receiver.
I get that to some degree. Talent and precious resources always have a little more rope and get treated a bit different.
Doctson has talent and he is a high value resource, but he’s done absolutely nothing to prove himself. Not only can he not stay on the field, but of course, he hasn’t done anything in his past to provide a track record of performance without a lot of reps or practice.
DeSean Jackson didn’t need a lot of time to get ready. If he was healthy, he was going to play because he had proof of performance. That’s what happens when you have a past.
That’s not Doctson’s fault, by any means, because he simply hasn’t been in the NFL long enough – but that just means that after a year plus of majoring in the trainer’s room, Jay Gruden needs to see more than great game talent at TCU and some limited, impressive practice tape here.
Quite simply, Gruden knows that Doctson is not fully ready to go and cut it loose physically and mentally. Last year, as we said countless times in this space and on radio (106.7 The FAN), Doctson was rushed back to the field before he was ready and for no real legitimate reason, because the Redskins were trying to prove a point. It turned out to be a disaster and Doctson, for whatever reason, couldn't get right.
Now the Achilles injuries seem to be a thing of the past, but it's the hamstring that caused him to miss the third preseason game of August and as a precaution, the fourth and final game, against Tampa.
Reporters are not allowed to see practices, so there’s no true way to determine how Doctson is working, but the bottom line is this – If Gruden thought that Doctson was practicing good and ready to go, he wouldn’t be getting only 20 snaps and his head coach
wouldn’t be sarcastically challenging him.
Essentially, Gruden thinks he’s soft. He’ll never admit that in public but that’s what I believe and what I’ve heard Jay thinks. That might be right or it might be wrong. Only time will tell. Gruden does not have a lot of patience for big-name players that become larger than the overall team and goal, if they don't produce. See - Griffin, Robert - as a perfect example of that.
The Redskins shut down reporters for a few days late in the preseason from talking to Doctson, because they are trying to avoid any drama. But the bottom-line is this, you can only hide for so long. Nobody is giving up on Doctson, but he's not going to play a lot, just because he was drafted in the first round last year. Also, while it won't happen this year - teams and head coaches with some level of security generally feel empowered to make moves that also serve as "examples" to others.
Doctson is not guaranteed to be here long-term, simply because he was first-round pick by some of the same regime but also by the former general manager.
Gruden likes Ryan Grant or as Scot McCloughan referred to him as – “Ryan Gruden” - because Grant is always healthy, practices well and knows every receiver position. Ike Hilliard, the Redskins receivers coach, told Warpath in June that Grant is the best route-runner he has.
In games, Grant will make mistakes, as he did in the preseason against the Packers and as he has in the past with pre-snap penalties. Grant also has more experience than Doctson and even though it is limited, he has more on his resume than Doctson.
season opener against Philadelphia
, Grant had four catches for 61 yards on six targets. That’s already better than any individual game performance in 2016 for receptions, yards and targets. He’s only 16 receiving yards away from surpassing his 2016 total.
In 2015, Grant was more productive and was targeted 42 times with 23 receptions, 268 yards and two scores so his success should not be considered a surprise. Yet it was and is, by many.
The notion that Ryan Grant can’t play at the NFL level is absurd. He can. He needs to be better and he’s far from perfect but he can contribute and he’s much more reliable than the Doctson, who can’t get right and has to figure out what path his career will take.
Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (www.DCHotRead.com). Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN