When assessing two of many noticeable issues from Sunday’s loss against Philadelphia, third down defense and Josh Doctson’s struggles were hot topics of discussion post-game. Doctson, the second year wideout, finished the game with just 20 snaps, or 32 percent of the Redskins offensive plays. The Redskins defense, although looking much faster and physical up front, allowed the Eagles to convert 57 percent on third downs, which was the Redskins achilles heel from a year ago.
In Jay Gruden’s post-game presser and in his Monday press conference, Gruden made reference to Doctson’s inability to see more playing time on Sunday. Gruden is a firm believer in a player earning their playing time. Last year, Maurice Harris went through similar struggles, but his production was valuable as a depth receiving option late in the season. Robert Kelley also had to earn his way on the field, with scant opportunities to show off his skills. But like Harris, his role increased as Matt Jones fumbled his starting role away.
Fans sometimes overreact to their perception of personnel situations. Some have mentioned that Gruden “hates” Doctson or has little respect for his player, but Doctson’s situation will be a true test of his resiliency, knowing he has to earn his playing time. There is little doubt that he is one of the two best receivers on this team along with Crowder, but it is important to detach the fandom from the methods of the coaches.
Players are put in positions similar to Doctson’s often, and it is on them to prove not only to the coaches they are capable of performing consistently and on a high level, but to themselves and gain the confidence and trust of teammates that he can be relied upon. Gruden expects Doctson’s snap count to continue to rise moving forward, and I expect to see what he has done at training camp to this point to be on full display in the Sundays to come.
When looking at the defense, there is a sense of acceptance with the way they performed against the Eagles on Sunday. The front seven had Carson Wentz under pressure throughout the afternoon, and the Redskins held the Eagles to 2.6 yards per carry, on 20 carries, between the Eagles three running backs. What is also a fact, the Redskins continue to struggle on third down. It was not as though the defense was unable to generate pressure or provide good coverage; conversely, they did a solid job in this regard. However, the Redskins were unable to capitalize on pressure and timing, with missed tackles and sack opportunities on Wentz, allowing the Eagles’ play-caller to extend plays with his feet and exploit defensive mistakes.
Five of the fourteen attempts the Eagles faced on third down were seven yards or longer. Philadelphia converted for first downs by gaining an average of 16.8 yards per play. This is nowhere close to a winning formula, and although the Redskins defense had bright spots, it is evident that third down situations are still an issue.
So did the defense perform much better than the 2016 unit? Or was it simply less dreadful? Looking ahead to the Rams next week, regardless of how one feels, Jared Goff is not the same caliber quarterback as Carson Wentz in regards to maneuvering inside the pocket. If the Redskins are able to generate the same pressure in week 2 that they showed against the Eagles, they should yield much better results.
What are your thoughts on Doctson’s progression and on the defensive struggles in week 1? Comment and let us know.
Which was more offensive in the Redskins’ week 1 matchup against the Eagles
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Josh Docton’s struggles
The defensive effort on third down