ASHBURN — Josh Doctson hasn’t played a game in a Redskins uniform since last September. He had hoped to change that last Thursday in the preseason opener but, four days before that game, hurt his hamstring in practice.
Doctson may have to wait another week but he took a step forward Wednesday, getting back on the practice field in pads as the Redskins returned home after more than two weeks of training camp. Doctson wasn’t a full participant in practice, but did individual drills. It’ll be up to the Redskins training staff whether he plays Saturday against the Packers.
“Tomorrow we’re going to try to see how much more he can do and then we’ll make a decision on Saturday whether or not we can put him in or not,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.
If he is active, Doctson still won’t play much Saturday. The Redskins will be cautious with their entire starting offense, but Doctson in particular. Doctson missed all but two games as a rookie last year due to persistent Achilles tendon problems that were never clearly diagnosed.
The Redskins also had receiver Jamison Crowder as a full participant Wednesday. Crowder had already made his return to practice after missing the majority of training camp with a hamstring injury, but took on a greater workload. Crowder did punt return drills, all receiver drills and was in with the starting offense during team work, where he finished the session by catching a touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins.
After practice, Crowder said he was planning on playing Saturday. That’s not exactly up to him, but it’s a good sign that he feels healthy.
Linebacker Preston Smith also returned to practice after missing more than a week due to a sprained ankle. With Trent Murphy out for the year, having undergone his ACL/MCL surgery, Smith lined up opposite Ryan Kerrigan on the outside of the first team defense. Fellow outside linebacker Ryan Anderson, who got a stinger during the Baltimore game, did not practice.
Undrafted rookies pushing Kouandjio
Over the course of training camp, undrafted rookie guard Kyle Kalis has supplanted Arie Kouandjio on the second offensive line. This has been fairly consistent and, Wednesday, Gruden acknowledged that Kalis and Tyler Catalina, also an undrafted rookie, are putting pressure on the 2015 fourth-round pick.
“That’s what it is, a battle,” Gruden said.
While Gruden mentioned both Kalis and Catalina, it’s Kalis who has mostly been moved up to the second line when Kouandjio has gone down to the third. Catalina can play tackle, as well as both guard spots, though, and that versatility could help him make the team.
“At the end of the day we’re just going to have to let these guys play and make a decision,” Gruden said.
Zach Brown earning more starting reps
The Redskins have rotated their inside linebackers all preseason long but, on Saturday, Zach Brown and Mason Foster were paired in the starting defense for the entire session. When Brown joined the Redskins for OTAs, Compton and Foster took all the first team reps, but Brown has shown Washington the traits that sent him to the Pro Bowl last season, and has earned more playing time.
Brown still seems to surprise Redskins quarterbacks with his quickness in coverage. Wednesday, he added a pass breakup on a Kirk Cousins throw to his list of flashy plays. It could have been an interception, though the speed at which Brown changed direction to jump in front of the ball had him moving too fast to settle the ball at his chest.
“Obviously Zach Brown has a great skill set for playing linebacker,” Gruden said. “He can go sideline to sideline probably athletically faster than the majority of the linebackers we have.
Compton distinguishes himself at Mike linebacker because he’s a good communicator who understands the Redskins system. Foster serves as the weakside linebacker when Compton is in, but can play “equally as well” at Mike, according to Gruden.
“I think all three of them have the qualities to play, so it’s just a matter of finding the right match, and who that’s going to be will be determined here in the next couple of weeks.”
All three linebackers will play. Brown has made it worth the Redskins’ while to ensure he plays a lot.