Each week in the 5 Qs, 5 As post in which I exchanged questions and answers with a writer from the SB Nation sister site of the team the Seahawks are about to spar with, I subtly drop hints that sometimes what you get isn’t what you give. Well, I’m keeping this intro short because Bill Horgan from Hogs Haven has absolutely put me to shame.
I sent Bill 5 Qs. He sent me back a novella. And I think that is awesome.
Here’s everything you need to know about the football team in D.C.
Q: I've never seen a roster as decimated by injury in a short period of time as Washington's appears to be right now. What starting offensive linemen do you expect to definitely be out? Which ones are on the fence? And who are some other key names that are likely to miss the game?
A: Let me start by showing you the first injury report, from Wednesday this week, following the Cowboys game.
There are, in fact, 21 names on that report. That is, amazingly, an increase from last week’s 17 players.
But let’s be realistic, seven of those guys were full participants in practice, so they don’t count much. Josh Norman broke a few ribs, but that was a month ago, and he played well against the Cowboys last week. Morgan Moses sprained both ankles in the game against the Eagles, but he managed to gut it out last week; he’ll probably be able to do it again in Seattle.
So, the team really only has 14 guys with significant injuries. Of those 14 guys, 10 are starters, and two others normally get significant playing time. Ty Nsekhe is the swing tackle and doesn’t normally play, but he’s the backup to Trent Williams (who did not play against the Cowboys or practice on Wednesday), so Nsekhe would be playing if he were healthy.
Oh, yeah. There are a ten guys on IR as well. Five or six of them have significant effect on the roster, and the Redskins’ ability to field a winning team:
- Phil Taylor was injured in preseason and would have probably been our starting Nose Tackle
- Trent Murphy – starting OLB, tore his ACL in preseason.
- DeAngelo Hall – on PUP rather than IR, as his injury happened in the 2016 season. He plays safety now, and may actually be activated from PUP for this week’s game.
- Dustin Hopkins – placekicker, was injured in the Niners game two weeks ago.
- Jonathan Allen – starting DT and 2017 first round draft pick, suffered Lisfranc injury in Week 7 game against the Eagles
- Mason Foster – starting ILB, injured shoulder early in the season, but played through it. ‘Skins placed him on IR on Friday before Cowboys game.
So, that puts the list of casualties back up to 19 or 20 players.
It’s anybody’s guess which linemen will start this week. According to one local news outlet: “None of the four starters [on the injury report] has been ruled out of the game in Seattle on Sunday although the chances are that Williams and Long both could sit out.”
I don’t think there’ll be any clarity on that before Saturday at the earliest. Here are my best guesses on probabilities for our top 6 linemen:
Trent Williams (LT) – 50/50
Shawn Lauvao (LG) – 80/20
Spencer Long (C) – 50/50
Brandon Scherff – 60/40
Morgan Moses (RT) – 95% (but he’s a bit hobbled with two sprained ankles)
Ty Nsekhe – 5% (he is recovering from surgery following a week 3 core muscle injury, but getting near expected return date)
Other key offensive players injured
The Redskins are missing two of their 4 tight ends with Jordan Reed (hamstring) and Niles Paul (concussion) out today. Reed is expected to miss the Seahawks game, and Paul is in the concussion protocol. This means that 5th round draft pick Jeremy Sprinkle will likely be active against Seattle, and will back up Vernon Davis. They should both see the field a lot, as the Redskins run a lot of 2-tight-end sets.
WR Jamison Crowder (hamstring) also sat out today’s practice after having his best game of the season last week.
Starting RB Rob Kelley was limited in practice, but he has been on every injury report since Week 2. He has missed two games this season, but he played last week against the Cowboys, and I suspect he’ll be ready to play again on Sunday.
Key defensive injuries
The defense only had two players who couldn’t practice on Wednesday.
Zach Brown sat with a back injury that he also sat for last Wednesday.
DE Matt Ioannidis is having surgery for a fractured hand, and will miss at least this week’s game. He will then have to get comfortable playing with a club. The loss of both Jonathan Allen (IR) and “Ioan-man” in back-to-back weeks is a huge blow to the defense, as the two of them were providing interior pressure that the Redskins have lacked for several years. While most fans around the league have never heard Matt Iaonnidis’s name, the 2016 5th round draft pick has been putting up pro-bowl quality performances backed up by statistical success. Losing one of these guys would have been disappointing; losing them both is a massive loss to the Redskin defense.
The Redskins placed backup safety Stefan McClure on IR today to make room for newly signed DE Arthur Jones, last seen playing for the Colts last season, before he was injured. He played for ‘Skins DC Greg Manusky when he was the DC in Indianapolis, which helps explain his signing.
“I think our front, when we were healthy, we had Ziggy [Hood] and Jonathan Allen and Matt, and we had a good rotation with Stacy [McGee] and Terrell McClain,” Gruden said Wednesday. “Now, with Matt and Jonathan out, our guys are going to have to step up. Stacy is going to have to play more, Terrell is going to have to play more, and now we have Arthur Jones in the mix, and obviously Anthony Lanier … but I think we just have to get those guys, taking Jonathan and Matt’s spot, to step up and play their gaps.”
DeAngelo Hall also said today that he expects to be activated off the PUP list this week and see the field on Sunday. The team has until November 9 to return him to the roster. The Redskins have only three safeties on the roster right now: two healthy players and one injured (starter). An alternative would be to promote rookie Fish Smithson from the practice squad. Jay Gruden said the team might do that earlier this year when they were had some injury problems at safety and Hall was not yet eligible to come back.
Q: Washington is dead last in fumbles at 18, including five by Jamison Crowder and three by Chris Thompson. How concerned are you week-to-week, touch-to-touch, about Washington losing a fumble? Is there any debate or theory on the cause of this and what is being done to fix it, or is it just dumb bad luck?
A: Over the past few seasons, the Redskins haven’t been a particularly bad fumbling team, though we’ve had a few players who were loose with the football. It was one of RG3’s weaknesses. He put the ball on the ground a lot.
Matt Jones, who was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft, was #1 on the RB depth chart at the start of the 2016 season, but he was benched last year, and cut at the end of training camp this year, because he kept dropping the ball.
The 18 fumbles number you mentioned has a few asterisks.
One fumble came on an end-of-the-game desperation lateral-and-pray play against the Chiefs.
A second was the play that sealed the opening week victory for the Eagles, when Kirk’s arm was moving forward when it was hit, but the replay officials failed to reverse the call on the field to an incomplete pass, which is what it really was. Instead they called it a fumble returned for a touchdown and ended the comeback attempt against the Eagles.
Against the Niners, the refs said that Vernon Davis fumbled. Instant replay clearly showed his knee was down, but – again – replay officials blew the call.
Still, that leaves 15 legitimate fumbles in 7 games, which is way too many.
The biggest culprit – unsurprisingly, I guess – has been Kirk Cousins, who has fumbled 7 times and lost 3 of them. Take away the bad call in Week 1 and that’s still 6 fumbles/2 lost. I’m not overly worried about Kirk’s fumbling, though. Losing 2 (or 3) balls in half a season isn’t insane.
What is worrying are the Crowder and Thompson fumbles, some of which have led directly to losses for the Redskins.
Crowder and Thompson have fumbled the ball primarily in the return game – Crowder returns punts and Thompson returns kickoffs. Here’s a little factoid for you: The Redskins have now fumbled on five kickoff or punt returns this season. They are tied with the Jets for the fifth most fumbles on returns in 2017.
Crowder muffed a punt in Week 1 against the Eagles. In the flow of the game, that muff led to an Eagles score that accounted for the loss. Basically, after the game, we were all saying, “If Crowder hadn’t muffed that punt, we’d have won that game…”
Crowder muffed another punt, leading to the Raiders’ only touchdown against us. In that case, the fumble didn’t cost us the game, but it was troubling because in past seasons he’d been a sure-handed punt returner.
Chris Thompson lost a fumble on a kick return last week against the Eagles, giving Dallas a very short field and leading to a Dallas field goal instead of a Redskin offensive possession. He didn’t cost us the game with that one play, but it was one of three special teams misfires that put a total of 14 points on the board for the Cowboys. The three Special Teams mistakes did cost the Redskins the win last week, and the Thompson fumble was one of those three mistakes.
I’d say that there’s no sense of “holding our breath” on offensive plays, but there’s a level of concern in the return game where Crowder and Thompson have given up some valuable field position by putting the ball on the ground.
Q: Washington's lost three of the last four games with the only win coming over the 0-8 49ers. Not that the losses have come against bad opponents (Eagles, Kansas City, an "OK" Dallas team), but it's hard to categorize Washington as "dangerous" right now. Is this a product of the injuries or is there a deeper problem with Jay Gruden's gameplan?
A: I’d argue that the Redskins are a much more dangerous team than you suggest. They’ve played possibly the hardest schedule in the NFL in the first 7 games, and yet they stand right in the midst of the wildcard hunt in the NFC as we enter Week 9.
Let me give some context to what I said there. Generally speaking, the top-12 teams would be considered ‘playoff’ teams.
A quick look at the latest Power Rankings on NFL.com show the Philadelphia Eagles at the #1 spot. Being in the NFC East, the ‘Skins have played them, and lost to them twice in the first 7 games.
The #2 team is the LA Rams, whom the ‘Skins beat earlier in the season.
At #4 you’ll see the Kansas City Chiefs. In that game in Week 4, the Redskins had the ball, behind by 5 points with 57 seconds left to play. We ultimately lost the game, but inside a minutes, we were a play away from getting a victory against Kansas City at in Arrowhead Stadium.
The Cowboys sit at #12 in those Power Rankings, and following their 13-3 campaign last year and 4-3 start this season. A lot of people see them – when they have Zeke Elliott lined up in the backfield – as a playoff team. Last Sunday, against that very good Dallas team, the Redskins again had the ball with less than a minute to play, down by 7 points. We didn’t win, but that entire game turned on two bad special teams plays by the Redskins – a blocked field goal that turned into a touchdown for the Cowboys (a 10-point swing in the game) and a Chris Thompson fumble on a kick return. Both plays gave the Cowboys offense short fields and ultimately cost the Redskins the game.
So, in seven games, the Redskins have played four times against three of the top four ranked teams in the league, and a fifth against a playoff quality team in the Cowboys, according to NFL.com. The Week 7 game against the Eagles is the only one of those games where the Redskins didn’t have a chance to tie or win inside the final two minutes.
The Redskins have been playing the league’s best teams into the final minute of the game. As is often the case for teams in the NFL, the Skins have been a play or two away from changing the final outcome in almost every game. In my view, they’re capable of beating any team in the league (except, I guess, the Eagles) and that’s really the definition of a dangerous team.
That said, the team has lost 3 out of the last 4, as you said. To answer your question, the issue for the Redskins over the course of the past 3 games has been injuries. Every team in the NFL has suffered injuries. Some teams, like the Packers and the Cardinals have lost key players that probably have ended their playoff hopes. Still, good teams are good because they have the depth to deal with injuries. A team without depth is a bad team.
At the beginning of the season, fans, journalists, players and coaches alike were feeling very good about the Redskins’ depth. This is certainly the deepest team we’ve fielded in many years. But the injuries to the Redskins team in 2017 have gone beyond anything normal. They’ve been freakish in the number of players affected, and in how hard they’ve hit certain position groups.
I gave a lot of detail about the injuries in reply to your first question, so let me just add some detail to the overview I gave there by showing you the snap counts for the offensive line from this past Sunday as an illustration of what the Redskins faced on the injury front:
Trent Williams – Pro Bowl starting LT
Brandon Scherff – Pro Bowl starting RG
Spencer Long – starting C
Ty Nsekhe – backup (swing) OT
You’ll see 4 snaps for Bergstrom and 22 for Kouandijo – both of those players were signed to the team on FRIDAY, two days before the Cowboys game. Kouandijo had been with the Skins last season, but was cut after training camp this year; Bergstrom introduced himself to his new teammates at Saturday’s walk through.
- Rookie Chase Roullier out of Wyoming took snaps on offense for the second time in a game and made his first career start.
- Rookie Catalina was active for only the second time in his career and got the start at right guard in place of Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff. Catalina also took snaps at left tackle after T.J. Clemmings (the #4 OT) left the game injured.
- Tony Bergstrom took the snaps at right guard when Catalina moved over to man the left tackle position.
All six of the Washington’s top offensive linemen are now injured; for that reason, the team is currently carrying a whopping 12 O-linemen on the roster, all 12 of whom have had to play in a game for the Redskins this year. Here’s why that is even more insane than it sounds:
- On average, NFL teams have had 8.7 offensive lineman play for them this season.
- 17 of the 32 teams have only needed 8 or fewer linemen to play for them this year.
- Only 5 other teams have used 10 or more linemen.
- The Redskins have played more linemen (12) than any other team in 2017.
The Redskins have the most injured offensive line in the NFL.
The injuries are probably worst at the offensive line position group, but they extend to the defense, which was missing 6 or 7 starters by the time we played Dallas, the TE group (with only one TE healthy by halftime of the Dallas game out of three active at the start), and special teams, with the Kicker on IR.
Given the incredible level of injuries, the surprise isn’t that Dallas won on Sunday, but that the Redskins controlled the first 25 minutes of the game, and that Washington was still playing with a chance to tie the game inside the final minute of the game. With the injuries to the TEs, defense – and especially to the offensive line – this should have been a Cowboy blowout. Instead, the Redskins lost the game with two bad special teams plays – one in each half, that put 13 points on the board for Dallas.
We won’t know the full injury situation for this Sunday’s game in Seattle until close to game time, but the team will definitely be showing up very injured. Some players who couldn’t get on the field against Dallas will probably go against Seattle, though some who were healthy last week may not be able to suit up this week.
In the end, the key for the Redskins being able to leave Century Link Field with a win will be the health of the Offensive Line, and how many of the top 6 players can take the field. It could be all of them; it could be none of them. Redskin success or failure will probably be determined at those 5 positions.
Q: It seems that right now Washington is a non-threat on special teams, specifically on returns, but also now dealing with a new kicker who missed a field goal and PAT last week. How worried are you about losing a game due to special teams errors?
A: I mentioned in the answer to question 2 that the team has already lost games due to special teams mistakes, so when you ask “How worried are you about losing a game due to special teams errors?” my answer is: very worried.
In my view, two of the 4 Redskin losses this season were primarily the result of poor special teams play. What really hurts is that those two losses were to division opponents – the Eagles in Week 1 and the Cowboys last week.
Last year, one specific bad special teams play – a missed ‘chip shot’ field goal in overtime – not only cost us the chance to win a game, but ultimately kept us out of the playoffs.
The kicker, Nick Rose
I mentioned in an earlier answer that our regular kicker, Dustin Hopkins, was placed on IR following the San Fran game. Hopkins was only an average kicker last year, hitting 81% of his field goals. In his 5 games to open this season, he looked to be tracking about the same as last year, with an 81.8% rate.
After he went on IR, the Redskins brought 4 kickers into camp, and signed a first-year kicker named Nick Rose to replace Hopkins. I honestly don’t know – after two games -- whether to worry about the Redskins new young kicker or not.
He looked okay in his first game (Week 7 against the Eagles) converting his only field goal try and punching through 3/3 PATs. The weather was a big factor last week against the Cowboys. It was pouring rain for a day before the game, it rained heavily and steadily throughout the game, and got worse as the game moved into the 4th quarter. The Cowboys’ new (but veteran) kicker, Mike Nugent, missed a field goal in the same game.
Rose had a 42-yard attempt early in the first half against the Cowboys; the snap was low and inside. The holder was still fumbling with the ball as Rose was stepping up to make the kick. Tress Way, the holder, got the ball placed as Rose’s foot was swinging. Miraculously, the field goal was good! Slow motion replay showed what a wonderful job Way did, and how Rose never lost his concentration.
The blocked field goal came a few minutes before halftime, and it was a repeat of the earlier 42-yarder in terms of the bad snap (low and inside again), Way fumbling to control it, Rose continuing with his kicking motion. This time, though, the result was a block, a recovery, and a run-back all the way to the Redskins 2-yard line, setting up an easy Zeke Elliott touchdown.
I haven’t heard anyone who has been able to say definitively yet whether the kick was low or it was just a good block by the Cowboys, but to my eye it looked like the ball was on a low trajectory. Given all the problems with the snap-and-hold mechanics, it’s hard to say that the placekicker, Rose, was the problem.
The long snapper, Nick Sundberg, is a veteran snapper who has been with the ‘Skins for years. He has a reputation for consistency and accuracy, so it’s likely that the real culprit was the weather, which was simply filthy all day on Sunday. Bad weather is no excuse for an NFL long-snapper, but as I say, he’s normally automatic.
My only point here is that – in light of at least two really bad snaps, wet field and wet ball -- it’s hard to look at the blocked kick and the missed extra point and draw any really troubling conclusions about Nick Rose just yet – especially after he looked fine in limited duty the week before. Still, he has no special reputation from college, and I don’t think any Redskin fan had ever heard from him prior to the tweet two weeks ago that announced him as our new kicker.
I guess I’d say the jury is still out on him.
Kick Returner, Chris Thompson
One of our writers, James Dorsett, had some good information on kick returns in an article he wrote this week:
Chris Thompson doubled his season total of 3 kickoff returns by returning 3 kicks in this game alone. It didn’t go well for Thompson and the Redskins
CT did set new season highs in number of returns (3), return yardage (61), return average (20.3) and long return (22 yards); but his returns only got the Redskins out to the 21 (twice) and the 24-yard lines.
In fact, the Redskins have not been able to take a single one of their 9 kickoff returns this year out to or past the 25; so, ultimately, the team would’ve been better off if they just let everyone of their kickoffs go for touchbacks (i.e. take the automatic start at the 25).
Chris Thompson typically just kneels down and takes the touchback on kickoffs, and I’m perfectly content with that. I think Jay Gruden, who is a fairly conservative, play-the-percentages kind of guy, is happy enough for CT to take a knee in the end zone. Consistently giving Kirk Cousins the ball on the 25 yard line is a pretty good formula for winning football games.
Punt Returner, Jamison Crowder
Crowder is the Redskin ‘starting’ slot receiver now, in addition to his punt return duties, but that is really a happy accident. He was drafted to be the ‘Skins full time punt returner.
In 2016, Crowder was one of the best punt returners in the league, returning 27 punts for 328 yards, including 1 TD. He averaged 12.1 yards per return, with a long of 85 yards.
In 2017, Crowder is pedestrian at best. In 7 games, he has returned 13 punts for 68 yards (long of 18) for an average of 5.2 yards per return, and – as already mentioned – has muffed and lost two punts in 7 games. When you toss in these two muffed punts recovered by the bad guys, he starts to look like a liability on special teams.
It might be easy to write this off to small sample size or a couple of bad games, but Jamison’s 2017 numbers look eerily similar to his rookie-season numbers from 2015 when he had an average of 5.3 yards per return.
After a slow start as a receiver this year, Jamison Crowder finally showed up in the offense against the Cowboys, so maybe he’s finally found his mojo. He needs to find a way to get back some 2017 magic in his return game as well. Unfortunately --- stop me if you’ve heard this before – he injured his hamstring in the Cowboys game and is questionable for Sunday.
Q: Your team came into the season with Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and Jordan Reed, but Washington's leading receiver is somehow Vernon Davis. We knew that this would be a transition year after losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon (and Sean McVay) but is this a much more disappointing season in the passing game than you expected and which receivers/tight ends do you think should be brought back or featured next season? How big of a priority will that be again in 2018? Any positives from Pryor?
A: The wide receivers, as a group, have produced very little this year, and that’s been a little bit of a surprise given what the Redskin offense had done under Jay Gruden in his first 3 years with the Redskins. People expected a drop off in the passing game with the departure of Garcon & Jackson and the anticipation of a more balanced offensive attack, but there were expectations that Crowder in his 3rd year, a healthy Doctson, and Pryor – who had put up over 1,000 yards with a motley crew of QBs in Cleveland last year – would have an impact.
The orthodox view was that the WRs might start a little slow, but that they would quickly increase productivity as they developed chemistry with Cousins.
There was an expectation – because the Redskin pass attack really runs through its tight ends, and uses a lot of short passes to the running backs – that the team would have no real trouble adapting. All of those expectations have fallen flat, and the only real positive surprise this season has been the emergence of Chris Thompson as one of the most productive and versatile offensive players in the NFL so far.
Let me briefly recap what we’ve seen from each of the key players you mentioned in your preamble.
Disappointing. Bad. Underperforming. Choose your adjective; Terrelle Pryor, who was considered a splashy – and unexpected -- free agent signing after Garcon & Jackson had already left, was expected to pick up where he left off last year with the Browns when he put up over 1,000 yards receiving. With his 6’4” 228 pound frame and good speed, the front office, coaches, and fans were expecting Pryor to stress defenses and add a whole new dimension to the Redskins offense.
Instead, he has been sluggish out of breaks, he’s failed to get separation, and when Kirk has thrown at him he has shown a propensity to drop the ball.
Pryor has looked bad, and most fans are ready to end the experiment. We’ve got two big receivers on the Practice Squad. One of them – Maurice Harris – was active for several games last season, and looked good when he played. Harris did everything that Pryor hasn’t been doing – most especially, Harris caught the ball when it came near him. He didn’t play many snaps or make many receptions, but he made the most of every opportunity and looked like he’d earned a spot on this year’s 53. The only reason I can think of at this point for Pryor to still be on the team and Harris to be on the practice squad is the shit the front office would have to eat if they cut Pryor now.
And then there’s this, reported in multiple media sources:
Washington Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor, coming off a game in which he was benched in the first half, apologized to teammates and fans for his inconsistency and lack of on-field focus.
Pryor posted the message on his Instagram account Saturday morning, saying he has been inconsistent with "a lot of stress brought onto myself from loss of focus on the field..not personal life but at work reasons. Ready to be the beast I know I am. Looking forward to Sunday."
It’s hard not to like Pryor as a person, but it’s easy to be frustrated with him as a WR on the Redskins roster.
Aside from a complete turnaround in Pryor’s game in the next 9 weeks, I can’t see any way that the Redskins would re-sign him. If it was up to most fans, he wouldn’t be on the roster now.
I read a summary of Jordan Reed yesterday that was written by James Dorsett, one of my favorite Hogs Haven writers. I think the best thing I can do is just copy and past what James had to say about Reed.
It’s very frustrating to watch someone as talented as Reed set a defense on fire one week and then leave early with yet another injury the following game.
Reed left the game with a hamstring injury after receiving just 21 snaps. He finished the day with season lows in targets (1), receptions (1), receiving yards (5) and first downs (0).
His 5 yards against the Cowboys is tied with one other game for the second lowest yardage output of his entire career. He only played 7 snaps in his 4-yard game against Houston in the 2014 season opener.
Per Jay Gruden, Reed is expected to miss next week’s game against the Seahawks.
In other Jordan Reed news, Reed was recently tabbed to replace Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Mr. Glass in M. Night Shyamalan’s follow up to Unbreakable.
Jordan Reed was injured in the first game of the season, hasn’t really been right all year, and will probably not be on the field against Seattle this week.
Doc was drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft. He developed problems with pain in both Achilles tendons during mini-camp and OTAs and just never ‘got right’ last year. He played only a handful of snaps, and finished his rookie year with only two catches.
Doctson’s snap count started out very low this season, but increased weekly for the first five games. He replaced Pryor as the starter two weeks ago against the Eagles, and a strange thing happened – his snap count dropped. Two weeks in a row.
Doctson’s numbers – aside from the number of TD catches he has this season – are largely unimpressive.
He had one spectacular play against David Amerson in the Raiders game; a 52-yard touchdown in which he showed why the Redskins considered him the best receiver in last year’s draft.
Redskins fans rejoiced! Doctson had arrived.
Or so we thought.
A week later, Kirk threw a perfect ball to Josh Doctson in the end zone, but he dropped what would have been a spectacular game winning catch against the Chiefs with just 57 seconds left in the game.
You can see that point in the game circled in yellow in the win probability chart. On the third down play, the Redskins were already favored to win; if Doctson had held onto the ball, the probability would have shot up to a near-certainty of a win. Coming out of Arrowhead Stadium with a win would have changed everyone’s perception of the Redskins season.
But of course, Josh didn’t catch it, and his personal trajectory (and that of the Redskins) seems not to have recovered.
People a lot smarter than me have done film breakdowns that show that Josh is getting open, but Kirk simply isn’t throwing the ball to him.
Some people theorize that Kirk doesn’t have confidence in Josh, since he dropped the likely game winner against Kansas City. Indeed, he let a great pass from Cousins sail right between his hands on a third down play against the Cowboys last week.
This catch-that-should-have-been killed a Redskins drive, and contributed to the loss. It’s plays like this that make Doctson a different kind of frustration from Pryor. The feeling is that he isn’t seeing enough balls, and that Kirk needs to target him more often, but then when a ball comes his way in a big moment, sometimes he makes the play (he’s scored touchdowns in 3 of his last 5 games), but sometimes he doesn’t.
It’s easy to understand why Kirk Cousins seems to feel more comfortable throwing at Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Ryan Grant and Jamison Crowder.
Still, Gruden said two weeks ago that Doctson was drafted to be the #1 receiver in Washington. He’s got two more years of guaranteed contract left, so the team has to find a way to make it work. Doctson keeps flashing talent, but every time you think he’s gonna emerge as a force in the passing game, he seems to disappoint.
Crowder had a “making the leap” year as a second year slot receiver in 2016.
He had 67 catches, 847 yards, and 7 touchdowns.
The feeling among most fans was that, with Garcon & Jackson leaving and Doctson getting healthy, Crowder would see more targets and would likely lead the team in receiving this year. Many were expecting him to exceed 1,000 yards for the first time this year, his 3rd in the league.
It hasn’t happened. After 7 games, Crowder has 28 catches for 272 yards. His average of 9.7 yards per reception is down from last year’s mark of 12.6.
Through the first 6 games of the season, Crowder’s production was ‘disappointing’ and some people were starting to declare his season a bust.
Then came last week’s game against the Cowboys.
Let me again lean on James Dorsett for a description of Crowder’s effort against the Cowboys:
The 2015-2016 version of Jamison Crowder made his first appearance on Sunday.
Crowder played on a career high 95% of the offensive snaps and led the WR corps in snaps for the second straight week.
He tied his career highs in targets (13) and receptions (9) and posted a career-best 123 receiving yards. It’s worth noting that the other game in which he had 13 targets and 9 receptions lasted 75 minutes and finished in a tie.
Crowder didn’t just break personal records as receiver in this game, he did it as a rusher too. He carried the rock on a pair of 6 yard rushes. His 2 carries and 12 rushing yards were both career highs, as were his 134 yards from scrimmage and 133 all-purpose yards.
Everybody knew Crowder had the potential to put up these kinds of numbers, but nobody expected this type of performance after he struggled so much early in the season. Take a look at how his stats in Weeks 1-7 compare to what he did in Week 8.
- Crowder caught a season-long 41-yard reception in the first quarter of the game. In Week’s 1, 4, 6 and 7 he produced a combined 50 yards receiving.
- He caught 9 passes in those games, the same number of catches he recorded against the Cowboys.
- He had 149 receiving yards coming into the game, which is just 26 yards less than the total he finished the day with.
I have finally accepted the fact that Vernon Davis is the real starting tight end for the Washington Redskins. Davis started in his 19th straight game and led the team in TE snaps for the 11th time in the last 18 contests.
Since he joined the team last season, Davis has played in more games (23 to 18), made more starts (21 to 13) and taken more snaps (970 to 800) than Jordan Reed has. Reed has only outgained Davis by 2 yards (897 to 895) in that time frame, but has caught 32 more passes (93 to 61) and 5 more touchdowns (8 to 3).
Reed is better when healthy, and gets more PT on those rare occasions and in close games. The Redskins are often in close games, but how often is Reed actually healthy?
Anyways, Davis didn’t do much against the Cowboys to back up my position here. He caught 2 of his 4 targets for just 20 yards and 0 first downs.
Despite the down performance, Davis ranks 1st in the league among tight ends in yards per route run (2.50). He leads the Redskins in receiving yards since Week 4 (241 yards).
Chris Thompson, a late round draft pick in 2013 who started his career on IR and practice squad, has been a revelation this season. He is tied for the team lead in receptions (18) and leads the Redskins in first downs (14), receiving yards (340) touchdowns (4) and yards from scrimmage (515), and currently leads all NFL running backs in receiving yards (340), receiving yards per game (68) and yards per reception (18.9).
CT also leads the NFL with 329 yards after the catch (YAC), which is 77 more yards of YAC than the second place player in that category. His 18.3 YAC average is also tops in the league.If Thompson continues at this pace, he will become the fourth player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards receiving in the same season that they had 100 rushing attempts (Marshall Faulk, Roger Craig and Lionel James). Faulk was the last running back with over 1,000 receiving yards in a season, and he did it in 1999, the year Dan Synder bought the Redskins.
Let me lean on James Dorsett for an update following the Cowboys game:
Chris Thompson (Rushing)- He continued to be unimpressive as a runner. He had the team’s longest rush of the day (16 yards) and averaged 4.5 yards per carry; but nearly 90% of his yards came on that one run. His three other rushes all went for 2 yards or less (25% success rate).
Chris Thompson (Receiving)- Thompson caught a career-high 8 balls for 76 yards and 4 first downs on Sunday, with half of those first-down receptions coming on third or fourth down.
He earned the best PFF grade on the Redskins’ offense (80.1).
Chris Thompson (The GOAT)- This section of the article may be getting smaller, but it’s still alive and kicking.
- Thompson is still the only player in the NFL that leads his team in both rushing and receiving yards. He leads the team in those categories by margins of 65 yards and 130 yards, respectively. Thompson now also leads the team in receptions (31).
- His 442 receiving yards are the third most by any running back through the first seven games of a season since 1999. Only Marshall Faulk (494 yards in 2000) and Charlie Garner (449 yards in 2002) had more yards in that span.
- Thompson became the 22nd running back to hit 1,000 career yards as a member of the Redskins.
- Thompson is still on pace to crest 1,000 yards through the air this season. If he keeps up this pace he will finish the year ranked 6th all time in career receiving yards by a Redskins running back. He would also become the first RB in team history with a 1,000-yard receiving season.
Thompson has been the Redskins offense in 2017. He’s not a secret or a surprise any more. Everyone has seen the film; everyone knows what’s coming, but CT just keeps piling up the yards as the Redskins most potent weapon in the passing game, and the most consistent runner on the roster.
The focus of most of my comments has been the receivers, but in addition to Garcon & Jackson, there was one other major loss to the Redskin offense this past offseason – offensive coordinator Sean McVay.
Despite his young age, he’d been with the Redskins for 7 years.
While some might have initially seen him as a ventriloquist’s dummy for Jay Gruden, that proved to be false. McVay was and is a talented play designer and technical teacher in his own right.
There’s plenty of reason to believe that the drop in production of the wide receivers – coupled with the rise in production of Chris Thompson in the offense – may have more to do with Jay Gruden’s offensive design and play calling than with any grave deficiencies in the receivers on the roster.
At this point, fans are having to go game by game, hoping to see the offensive explosion in the passing game that most of us spent the offseason preparing for. With Gruden & Cousins we were mostly expecting 4,500 yards of passing, and it’s been a surprise that it hasn’t developed. It may be that the passing game that the ‘Skins are known for went – not to Tampa Bay and San Francisco – but to Los Angeles.
2018 and beyond
The Redskins will need to replace Pryor next year, but, as I said before, we actually have some receiving talent on the Practice Squad. I think there’s a good chance that Harris gets promoted to the 53 and sees some playing time late in the season. If he can step up, and Doctson can find his game, then a mid-round draft choice should be fine next season.
If not, then the ‘Skins will likely be looking for a receiver in the free agent market come March 2018.