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Redskins Receiving Woes - Who’s to Blame?

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

To say that the Redskins receivers are off to a slow start in 2017 is a huge understatement!

The Washington Redskins top three receivers, Jamison Crowder, Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson, have combined for just 54 receptions, for 625 yards and four touchdowns over seven games this season. To put that into perspective, DeAndre Hopkins over seven games, with a rookie quarterback throwing him the football, has 45 receptions, for 606 yards and seven touchdowns. Antonio Brown, despite playing in one more game, has 57 receptions for 835 yards and three touchdowns. The Redskins leading receiver in receptions, yards and touchdowns this season is running back Chris Thompson, who has 31, 442 and 3 respectively.

So what exactly is wrong with the Redskins top three receivers in 2017? I have broken the issues down into four culprits below.

The Receivers: Let’s start with the most obvious here. Now, before we nit-pick, let’s understand that Crowder, Pryor and Doctson have all not been healthy at some point during the season. Crowder has been fighting hamstring issues, Pryor is dealing with a foot issue he just made public, and Doctson has had numerous lower body issues.

Now that we have gotten past that, let’s assume that these “injuries” are/were causing the receivers to A) not develop the necessary timing with Cousins in practice, thus Kirk is not comfortable with them come game time; and B) not allowing them to run their routes to the fullest. I think this is really a combination of both, however I’m not putting it all on the “injury” issues. Some of this is because one of these receivers (Pryor), is new to the system. It does take time to develop chemistry, and in Terrelle’s case, he’s in just his second season as a full-time wide receiver in the NFL. The drops he’s suffered this season however, do not help his case.

For Doctson, who missed the majority of his first season due to injury, this essentially is the kids rookie year. He wasn’t able to do a ton this offseason, and was very limited in training camp and preseason games. Combine that with the fact that on film, I just don’t always see the ability with him just yet, to set up defensive backs effectively, and stem his routes like they should be. He’s also dropped some catchable passes; one that could have won the Kansas City game for the team, so maybe Kirk lacks confidence in him.

Crowder in my opinion, certainly falls under the injury issue when we look as his disappointing performance to date. We have all seen what a great route runner he is when healthy, and one can only assume his hamstring is limiting his ability to plant, cut and explode.

The Quarterback: Many on here and in the media have been critical of Cousins’ decision making and reluctance to target both Pryor and Doctson more. Pryor is the type of receiver who needs the ball in his hands early and often to get going, and Doctson is the kind of guy who can win a jump ball in coverage, so you just need to throw it up, and trust that he’ll come down with the ball. Kirk obviously hasn’t taken shots to these guys as often as fans may have liked, but to his defense, both receivers have had some horrible drops, with Pryor’s being more frequent, and of the easier catch type. This lack of trust can be why Pryor and Doctson are not seeing more targets as of late.

There is also another camp who feels Cousins is missing open receivers with frequency, instead often choosing to check the ball down to the dynamic Chris Thompson, or a tight end. This may be partly the case, but you also have to consider that with the exception of the first 2-3 games, our offensive line has been banged up, resulting in more pressures on Kirk. The lack of a running game also allows defenses to play more nickle looks, which can limit the effectiveness of a intermediate-to-deep passing game.

Finally, the Redskins don’t have a true deep threat to keep defenses honest. With Jordan Reed hurt yet again, they also don’t have a guy who can command extra coverage, thus taking away some coverage on the outside receivers. When you don’t have a true vertical threat, safeties can sit back in coverage, play a bit more relaxed, and read the field much easier. This can make windows much tighter for Captain Kirk.

The Coaches: As usual, Jay Gruden has been taking a lot of heat for the Redskins recent woes - some of that is deserved, while some of it is incredibly misguided. We don’t know who made the decision to part ways with Garcon and Jackson, and sign Pryor. Was it a collaborative effort, or were the strings pulled by management without the regard of Gruden and Kirk’s opinions? Was Gruden given pieces and told to simply make them work?

The Redskins looked incredibly flat in their season opener against the Eagles, but just maybe, at the time, people were seriously underestimating the best team in the NFL for the first half of the season. The team sprung to life after that however, with impressive wins against the Rams and Raiders, and a hell of a game on the road against the Chiefs, where the team was just a reception in the endzone away from a likely victory. After that, the wheels have fallen off, but injury has played a major role in that recent collapse. Still, is Gruden not calling plays for his receivers to be successful in this offense? Should more downfield shots and jump-balls be attempted to Pryor and this seems to be their strengths? Does Jay need to call more fades in the redzone?

Maybe Wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard is not doing a good job with this inexperienced group. It’s easy to coach talent that is already there, but the hard part for any coach is to develop a player to reach his potential. It’s possible Hilliard is having a tough time teaching the receivers (mainly Pryor and Doctson) the finer points of playing the position, instead choosing to rely on physical skills alone.

Management: Many will want to point the finger (and I’m not sure which finger), at Bruce Allen and company for letting two 1000 yard receivers walk this past offseason. It’s the first time in the history of the NFL that a team has parted ways with two 1000 yard receivers in the same offseason. Redskins fans already have a bad taste in their mouths for the way the team handled the firing of former General Manager Scot McCloughan by Allen and company, so they already don’t look favorably on the Skins front office.

If Scot was still here, would at least one of Jackson/Garcon still be here as well? Would Pryor still have been a free agent target? Hell, would Cousins have signed a long-term deal?

So, as you can see, there is a lot of information here to go over in deciding who is ultimately to blame. Obviously, it’s probably a combination of all four of the entities listed above, but if you had to choose just one, who would that be, and why? Please share your responses in the comments section.