Finally healthy after being limited to two games last season with Achilles' injuries, second-year receiver Josh Doctson was expected to play an important role in the Redskins' offense in 2017, and help make up for the offseason departures of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. He may eventually do so, but in Week 1, the Redskins' 2016 first-round pick was nothing more than a 6-foot-4, 228-pound decoy. Doctson was on the field for less than one-third of Washington's offensive snaps and he wasn't targeted once by quarterback Kirk Cousins in a 30-17 loss to the Eagles.
"I don't think it's a readiness issue; I think he's ready to go," Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said Monday when asked about Doctson's workload. "I think it's something more that he has to perform. He has to play well to earn more playing time. He hasn't practiced a whole lot; last year, he didn't practice a lot. This year, he has been in and out of the starting lineup a little bit. I think once he establishes himself as an everyday player, he's going to get the reps, and he'll prove that he is one of our top receivers. … But he has got to earn that right like everybody does."
Former Redskins receiver Santana Moss, among others, can't wait to see Doctson earn more playing time. He also doesn't have a problem with the manner in which Gruden is handling the No. 22 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. In fact, he kind of likes Gruden's tough-love approach.
"One of the things about Gruden, he doesn't bite his tongue," Moss said during an appearance with 106.7 The Fan's Chad Dukes on Monday. "No matter who you are as a player, I saw when he first came in, we had [Robert Griffin III]. He was the one coach that attacked RGIII and we kind of looked up there like, 'Yes!,' because we needed that. We needed [Griffin] to understand that he wasn't bigger than us. But Gruden is one of those coaches that you have to love because he's going to push you and test you to make you feel like, 'Hey, if I can't get on this field or if I can't be what this guy wants out of me, then I can't play this game for him.' I'm glad he's going at him that way. As a player in this league, you have to be tough, you have to be stern, you can't really let words affect you. Doctson knows, and I know, he had a little bite of that bad-luck bug and eventually he'll be out there. I think personally, watching the game, watching the way this guy catches the ball, watching the way this guy runs routes all preseason long, in camp, to me, he might be the best receiver on this team."
Moss raved about Doctson's fluid route-running, described his body control as "like a ballerina" and compared his leaping ability to an all-time great.
"He attacks the ball like no other," Moss said. "He has that Randy Moss kind of way of going over a guy's head and attacking that ball. That's what he does well. He did that all throughout his college years."
Those were among the reasons former general manager Scot McCloughan drafted Doctson in the first round, despite more pressing needs at other positions, including along the defensive line. Doctson was sidelined for almost the entire 2016 seasons, finishing his rookie year with two catches on six targets. He looked good during training camp this summer, but a hamstring injury limited him to one preseason game.
"He's been bit by that bad-luck bug," Moss said. "He can't stay healthy, and I think right now he's probably feeling the best he's felt in a long time, knowing that he's dealt with that hamstring for two or three weeks. I think it's going to be sooner or later that they're going to need him. They have enough guys right now to go out and do what they're doing, but they're going to need his playmaking ability soon, so I'm hoping this week they can find a way to play him and get him involved a little bit."
On Sunday, offseason acquisition Terrelle Pryor Sr. led all Redskins receivers with 11 targets, while tight end Jordan Reed had eight. Moss said it was apparent that Kirk Cousins missed Garcon and Jackson.
"You saw time and time again [Sunday], third and eight, third and 10, that's when we need Pierre, that's when we need that Jordan Reed catch," Moss said. "I'm not sure [Reed's] really healthy out there. I didn't really see that spring in him that I'm normally used to seeing. [Jackson], he was missed too. You see they went downfield a couple of times, but I know for a fact, me, being the guy that I am, and what I like to see is that guy who can make that clutch catch and go across the middle and take on linebackers and safeties and didn't care if they was coming his way or not, he's going to catch it and probably run one or two of them over and keep it going, and that was definitely missed."
Moss is confident Pryor will bounce back from a disappointing debut, which included a couple of dropped passes. He also said it's important that Pryor, Reed and Co. bail Cousins out on occasion, as Garcon did so often last year.
"One of the things I can say about for guys like Pierre, those guys that come down with those clutch balls, those clutch catches, half of the time the quarterback will throw the ball wrong, high, bad, and they're just going to bail you out," he said. "Kirk needs a guy who's going to bail him out this year. He's not always going to be perfect, he's not always going to throw the best ball, but he's going to throw it to you, so he's going to need those guys here and there to bail him out."