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Josh Doctson missing from Redskins' offense in loss

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Josh Doctson missing from Redskins' offense in loss

The Redskins lost two 1000-yard receivers to free agency this year. The team believed it had ready replacements for Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson in free agent acquisition Terrelle Pryor and 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson.

In Week 1, their replacement plan didn’t work out quite as well as they hoped.

Pryor did put up some numbers on the day, with six receptions for 66 yards. But he could not locate the ball on a deep pass on the first play of the game — a missed opportunity for a play that could have started the game going the Redskins’ way. Later he dropped a 50-yard touchdown pass, although that play would have been wiped out by a holding penalty.

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Doctson, on the other hand, was barely visible during the game. He only played 20 of the Redskins’ 63 offensive plays. Even though at 6-2 it’s hard to miss him on the field, he did not get a chance to make a catch or even drop a pass, for that matter. Kirk Cousins threw no passes in his direction.

Jay Gruden said that the plan is to work Doctson, who played just 18 snaps in the preseason and missed a good chunk of training camp after suffering a hamstring strain on Aug. 7, into the offense slowly.

“We’re getting him back in there,” said Gruden. “We’re making sure he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to go and can handle practice after practice, and game after game. We’ll give him more and more reps as the season progresses.”

It’s not only the low number of total snaps, it’s where they came on the field. Doctson was supposed to be a big asset in solving the Redskins’ problems with scoring in the red zone (in 2016, touchdowns on 45.9 percent of red zone trips, 26th in the NFL). But we never saw his ability to high-point the ball on fade patterns and physically beat cornerbacks with his size. He didn’t take a red zone snap. The Redskins were 0-2 in the red zone with one field goal and one interception.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS NEED MORE FROM COUSINS

The plays that most thought Doctson would get went to Ryan Grant, who played 37 snaps. The fourth-year player was productive, catching four passes for 61 yards. He more than halfway to his 2016 yardage production, which was 76 yards on nine receptions.

Grant can be a nice complimentary player but for the Redskins to operate at anything near peak efficiency they need to get Doctson into the flow of the offense. We can accept what Gruden said at face value for now. But if he still appears to be playing on a very limited snap count, say, in two weeks when the Redskins host the Raiders in a game in which they likely will need to score 30 points to win, we can start to wonder if something is wrong.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins Playbook: Looking at Kirk Cousins' Week 2 hits and misses

Redskins Playbook: Looking at Kirk Cousins' Week 2 hits and misses

Kirk Cousins played better in Week 2 than he did in Week 1, but the quarterback still didn't play as well as he's proved capable in previous seasons. He finished the 27-20 win over the Rams by going 18 of 27 for 179 yards with a touchdown. Important for Cousins, after three turnovers in a Week 1 loss, he did not fumble or throw an interception in Los Angeles. 

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Digging deeper into the numbers, one trend has emerged: Cousins and the Redskins are not having much luck in the downfield passing game. Stats provided by Pro Football Focus.

  • This season, Cousins has not completed a pass longer than 20 yards in the air. Against the Eagles in Week 1, Cousins missed on five deep attempts. Against the Rams, Cousins didn't have a deep attempt. 
  • Not surprisingly, Cousins does much better when he's not under pressure. On the season, the Redskins passer is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes without pressure, and that number drops to just below 43 percent under pressure. 
  • Cousins took four sacks against the Eagles, but that number dropped in half against the Rams.
  • Against the Rams, Cousins found his greatest success throwing to his left. On attempts to his left side, he completed all five attempts. Throwing over the middle or to the right, he threw 19 passes and completed 13. Week 1 Cousins also found his best success throwing to his left. 

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Preston Smith off to a strong start but Redskins want to see more

Preston Smith off to a strong start but Redskins want to see more

The end of Preston Smith’s 2015 rookie season set high expectations for his future. The outside linebacker racked up six sacks in the final four games including three in the Redskins’ division-clinching win in Philadelphia and one that got Aaron Rodgers for a safety in their wild-card playoff game. His eight sacks led all NFL rookies

But he wasn’t the player the team hoped he would be in 2016, at least not consistently. Smith got 4.5 sacks on the year. He had some dominant games like the one against the Vikings when he got two sacks and his first career interception. But he also disappeared for weeks at a time.

This past offseason the Redskins drafted outside linebacker Ryan Anderson in the second round and they re-signed Junior Galette. You always want to have good depth at the edge rushing position but it also appeared that the organization wanted to ensure that it would have alternatives if Smith’s sophomore slump extended into his third season.

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But so far, we have seen a Preston Smith who looks more like the one who finished up his rookie season than the often invisible 2016 version. He has two sacks in two games plus two quarterback hits and two hurries. While it’s very early, Smith is starting to live up to the potential he showed as a rookie.

His versatility has impressed Jay Gruden.

“I think he’s doing good against the run, number one,” he said. “That’s what we have to do. He’s got to set the point. You’ve got to set the point of attack, and he’s done a good job of that.”

Per Pro Football Focus, Smith has played 86 snaps. He has rushed the passer in most his plays, 46. But he also has defended the run 28 snaps and has dropped back into coverage 12 times. He has allowed one reception for six yards in those coverage snaps.

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The rest of Gruden’s answer to the question about Smith’s play was interesting.

And then when he’s asked to rush some, he’s done fine. I think he and Junior [Galette] had some good rushes. Junior got that critical holding call that pushed them back out of the red zone and forcing them into a field goal and obviously [Ryan] Kerrigan is doing his thing, so all three of those guys are doing a great job as far as giving a chance of pace. Preston is doing a good job. He can go inside, he can use his bull [rush] and he’s working on his get off. So I think he’s getting better and better.

Note that Gruden is nowhere near over the top in his praise of Smith. He brings in Galette and Kerrigan to turn the topic to the pass rush in general and uses words like “fine” and “good” to describe Smith’s play. Smith has been a source of frustration for the coaches as he often has relied on his natural ability rather than working to master the finer points of the job. The willingness to work on the details is often the difference between a talented player who just gets by and one who racks up 15-sack seasons, goes to Pro Bowls, and gets paid with large contracts.

Smith’s start is encouraging for the Redskins but Gruden and company are going to want to see a lot more before they dish out big compliments for him.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.