DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon left in free agency, but Terrelle Pryor took his talents to D.C. after a career year. Also, Josh Doctson should be healthy come Week 1 and Jamison Crowder is coming off his own career year.
When the Redskins offense takes the field for the first time in 2017, fans may say to themselves, “Wait, something is missing.”
But, depending on how Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson perform, those questions may not come up at all.
Of the four teams to have two 1,000-yard receivers last season, the Redskins were the only team to lose both. With Pierre Garcon are DeSean Jackson gone, who will best fill the void?
Pryor, Crowder and Doctson figure to see the most snaps at wide receiver this season, but odds are one will take charge as Kirk Cousins’ go-to guy.
Cousins threw for a franchise record 4,917 yards last season, breaking his own record from 2015. Garcon and Jackson each had their own 1,000-yard seasons, combining for 2,046 and seven touchdowns.
The Redskins offense finished third in the NFL, thanks to their second-ranked passing offense (297 yards per game). With a new target in Pryor, who has tremendous size, a speedy slot receiver in Crowder who Cousins is familiar with, and a first-round pick who finally seems to be healthy in Doctson, it is not absurd to think they could have another pair of 1,000-yard receivers.
Pryor and Crowder are both coming off career years, but first, let’s examine the unknown.
Doctson missed all but two games due to Achilles injuries last season, but if healthy, could pair well on the outside with Pryor. Doctson stands at 6-foot-2 and showed he could outplay physical cornerbacks in traffic at TCU. The former Horned Frog displayed a 41-inch vertical and 4.50 40-yard dash at the combine last year.
If Doctson can play a full 16 games, Redskins fans might actually be calling for the end zone fade.
“[Doctson] has been impressive,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said last month during organized team activities. “The last two days he’s looked better and better.”
Doctson has plenty of upside, but it is too early to expect him to lead the charge on this high-octane offense.
After a humble 604 reception yards in his 2015 rookie year, Crowder totaled 847 yards in 2017 and led the team with seven touchdowns. He had some of his biggest performances last season when tight end Jordan Reed was out of the lineup, showing he was able to run a number of different routes successfully.
In today’s NFL, slot receivers are no longer viewed as a team’s third-best receiver like they might have been years ago. Look no further than the reigning Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots for proof. The last wide receiver above 6-feet to lead the Patriots in reception yards was Randy Moss in 2007. Wes Welker and Julian Edelman carried the load for the Patriots over the last decade, and are comparable players to Crowder.
The 5-foot-8 Crowder also has the most experience playing with Cousins. With some similarly tall targets on the outside in Reed, Pryor and Doctson, or even Maurice Harris and Robert Davis, Crowder is the only receiver on the Redskins offense who can do what he does.
With his distinctive skill set and familiarity with his quarterback, Crowder could be the favorite to lead the Redskins in reception yards if he were guaranteed the same number of snaps as Pryor. Since Crowder is not always featured in two-receiver sets, it is hard to imagine him getting more reception yards, even if he ends up with more receptions.
With five different quarterbacks throwing to him, Pryor still managed to reel in 1,007 yards last season. A former quarterback himself, Pryor even threw a couple of passes.
He won’t have to worry about throwing any this season, but Cousins says Pryor’s experience as a quarterback has helped the two gel.
“He’s going to hold me accountable, because he knows where the ball should go,” Cousins said last month. “I like it because I have never had a conversation with a receiver like I have with him.”
Gruden also commended his new receiver for his talents.
“They have no trouble communicating,” Gruden said. “[Pryor] has a great skill set, great catch radius.”
Pryor is one of the more unique talents in the NFL, but if the Redskins offense is able to keep the majority of their players healthy, they will be less reliant on him. A clear cut No. 1 wide receiver, odds are Pryor leads this group in yards, but with so many targets for Cousins, he may not lead the pack by much.