A lot has been made about Washington Redskins first round pick Josh Doctson missing all of training camp, and possibly another two weeks, with an Achilles injury. Normally when a team's first pick in the draft goes missing for any length to time, panic begins to set in, but no one at Reedskins Park(besides Scot McCloughan and his busted hand) seems to be in full panic mode.
Much of this points to the deep receiving group the Redskins have assembled heading into the season. When you take into consideration the group of wide receivers and tight ends the Redskins have, it's really no surprise that the coaching staff fells no hurry to rush the talented rookie back. Now, missing the preseason will certainly set Doctson back in his development early in the season, but I believe his draft selection pointed more towards the future than the present.
I have been following this team for over 30 years, and I can't remember a squad this loaded with men who can move the chains by receiving a ball thrown by their quarterback. Now, I was young when the "Fun Bunch" was in their Hay Day, but with all apologies to our "older" fans, I think this is a better overall collection of talent.
Just how good is this collective unit? Some may say they are the best in the NFL from top to bottom; receivers to tight ends, and that would be very hard to argue!
The leader of this talented pass-catching group is the rising star Jordan Reed. Reed is essentially a receiver trapped in a tight ends body. He is a mismatch nightmare for linebackers and safeties alike, and if you want to drop a corner down to cover him, you know you will have a favorable matchup somewhere else on the field. At 6'3" and almost 250 pounds, Reed has cat-like quickness in and out of breaks, and hands that snatch anything that comes near him. He is a nightmare in the open field for smaller defensive backs with the ball in his hands, and can chose to run over, around or through attempting tacklers. Reed is not a "complete" tight end, as he lacks in-line blocking skills that some of his competition possesses, but that is ok for the Redskins, because they know what they have in Reed, and they seem comfortable with who he is.
While we are on tight ends, the Redskins boast some very solid depth behind Reed. Veteran tight end/fullback/receiver Niles Paul returns after missing last season with injury. Paul is a do-it-all type player for the Redskins, as you will see him line up at fullback, in-line as a traditional tight end, split out in the "joker" role, or even lined up wide as an outside receiver. When he's not running routes or blocking linebackers, you can find Paul on coverage units for special teams coach Ben Kotwica. He is truly one of the Redskins most complete and valuable players.
If Reed and Paul weren't enough, GM Scot McCloughan brought in veteran tight end Vernon Davis in the offseason. The 32 year old veteran still claims he can run the 40 under 4.5 seconds, and although he dropped an easy touchdown against Atlanta Thursday night, he showed great burst and excelleration to gain depth and separation on the corner route. Davis may also be the best blocker of the tight end group, and make no mistake, that is something the Redskins need from the position.
In the 4-hole, is veteran tight end Logan Paulsen. At 6'5" 268, Paulsen is the biggest of the group expected to make the 53-man roster. Despite his size, Logan runs clean routes, and boasts an impressive catch radius. He's not a threat to take one to the house in the open field, but he can move the sticks with his size and power after the catch.
Moving on to the wide receivers...
This is where things get exciting!
Although they don't boast great size, the trio of DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon and Jamison Crowder strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses with their playmaking ability. The diminutive group has it all. The speedy Jackson is the most dangerous pure deep threat in the game, and has to be accounted for on every play; mainly with over-the-top safety help to boot. He is the best in the NFL at tracking the deep ball while it's in the air, and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Although he may not be the type to sacrifice his body between two defenders at the goal line, he brings plenty to the table in terms of big-play ability.
In Garçon, the Redskins have that reliable possession guy, who does all the dirty work on the outside. He's not afraid to sacrifice his body in traffic, willingly blocks on run plays, and will get underneath at the sticks to help the offense move the chains. Make no mistake about it, Garçon knows his role on this team, and he plays it well. He may not put up anymore 113 catch, 1300+ receiving years, but he no longer has to with all the help and talent around him.
Occupying the slot opposite Reed you find Jamison Crowder. At just 5'8" 182 pounds, Crowder is the smallest of the Redskins pass catching targets, but he is easily the quickest. He proved his value last season as rookie, when he broke the rookie receiving record, hauling in 59 receptions, for 604 yards and 2 touchdowns. In this offense, with so many weapons, Crowder doesn't command as much attention as his counterparts, making him even more dangerous from the slot. If he stays healthy, and continues to mature as a player, he could become an 80-catch, 800+ yard guy.
And finally, why not finish off with who we started with - Josh Doctson. Although he's yet to take an NFL game snap, Doctson enters the season with the most impressive measurable of any pass catcher on the roster. At a tick under 6'3" and weighing 206 pounds, the former TCU star has 4.5 speed to go along with a ridiculous 42" vertical jump, a 4.08 short shuttle, and a catch radius that boasts 32" arms and almost 10" hands! You can see why McCloughan punched a wall when he found out Doctson's Achilles strain was worse than originally reported. If Doctson can work his way onto the field, and begin contributing by mid-season, it will make one of the league best pass catching groups even more dangerous. His future, however, remains just that...the FUTURE star receiver of this team.
Behind these polished vets and playmaking youngsters, the Redskins have assembled some impressive depth. Veterans Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross and rookie Maurice Harris have all turned some heads during training camp, and are competing for what is likely two remaining roster spots. The Redskins could try and sneak Harris on the practice squad, but a receiver-needy team who may have suffered an injury to a key starter, could claim him from under our own nose. At 6'3" 200 pounds, the speedy receiver could make the roster because of his unique size and playmaking ability.
Trying to decide who to keep as your 5th and 6th receivers, when you have so much talent ahead of them on the depth chart, is actually an excellent problem to have, and one the Redskins haven't had the luxury of having in what seems like decades.
Last season, even with the electric DeSean Jackson missing almost half the team's games with injury, we had 4 players(Reed, Garçon, Crowder and Jackson), who all topped 500 receiving yards, and all but Jackson(49 receptions), had over 50 catches. Now, add to that the receiving threat guys like Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and rookie Keith Marshall bring to the table out of the backfield, and you can justify the excitement and lofty expectations.
So, who has the best collection of pass catchers in the NFL? Ten years ago, the Redskins wouldn't have even been mentioned in the top half of the league. Today, we can argue that this collection of talent the team has assembled, may be the most prolific group in the NFL today.
Jordan Reed - 83 receptions, 875 yards, 9 TD's
DeSean Jackson - 72 receptions, 1085 yards, 7 TD's
Jamison Crowder - 68 receptions, 650 yards, 3 TD's
Pierre Garçon - 65 receptions, 675 yard, 5 TD's
Josh Doctson - 32 catches, 350 yards, 4 TD's
Vernon Davis - 23 catches, 220 yards, 2 TD's
Niles Paul - 21 catches, 235 yards, 2 TD's
Logan Paulsen - 16 catches, 150 yards, 1 TD