- - Tuesday, September 12, 2017


“Hope is a tattered flag and a dream of time.

“Hope is a heartspun word, the rainbow, the shadblow in white

“The evening star inviolable over the coal mines,

“The shimmer of northern lights across a bitter winter night.”

— Carl Sandburg

With all due respect to Mr. Sandburg, hope represents something different now for Washington Redskins fans:

“Hope is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver from Wyoming.

“Hope is a first-round draft pick by Scot McCloughan.

“The quarterback throwing a fade route for a corner touchdown.

“The sight of Josh Doctson running out of the tunnel at FedEx with the starting offense.”

The unknown is all Washington Redskins fans have for faith. They have seen the known, and the 2017 version of knowledge is not pretty. It usually isn’t at FedEx Field.

The unseen is all they have for hope.

Hope for success rests on the shoulders of players who have not yet had a chance to fail.

One of the biggest questions following Washington’s 30-17 loss to Philadelphia in the season opener at home is this:

Why is Josh Doctson on head coach Jay Gruden’s do-not-disturb list?

After a rookie season that saw his appearance in just two games while he reportedly struggled with an Achilles injury, hopes were high for Doctson going into training camp in Richmond. And while his presence on the field was sporadic, the sightings were promising, according to reports. He was worthy of hope — if he could just stay on the field.

He made a cameo appearance in Sunday’s loss, with no catches and no targets.

The kid who grabs the kickoff tee had more time on the field.

At Monday’s Gruden press conference at Redskins Park, everyone wanted to know why.

“I don’t think it is ‘readiness issues,’” Gruden said. “I think he is ready to go. I think it is something more that he has to perform and he has to play well to earn more playing time. You know, he hasn’t practiced a whole lot. Last year he didn’t practice a whole lot. This year, he has been in and out of the lineup a little bit. I think once he establishes himself as an everyday player, he is going to get the reps and he is going to prove that he is one of our top receivers. He’ll get more and more reps as the season goes on without a doubt, but he has got to earn that right like everybody does.”

“I need to see him out here at practice, you know, on a consistent basis,” Gruden said. “He will make plays in practice. The more plays he makes in practice, the more comfortable that Kirk will be, the more reps he is going to get and that is going to happen. It will happen. I know that will happen. Josh is a great receiver. Now it is just a matter of putting it day in and day out consistently, stacking days together one after another and then he will play plenty and get plenty of catches by the time the year is up.”

If this guy — a No. 1 draft choice — still can’t get on the practice field in his second season, the Redskins might wind up putting Doctson in the room where they are keeping Su’a Cravens. Or else in the Malcolm Kelly Memorial Room.

You remember Malcolm Kelly — the last tall, high-draft pick Redskins receiver who represented hope.

“We will throw it to him deep,” receivers coach Stan Hixon said in 2009 — a year after Kelly was drafted by Washington in the second round, part of that infamous Vinny Cerrato trio of Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Davis. “He doesn’t have blazing speed, but really, you don’t need to have blazing speed with his height. Just get him in a jump ball situation, and we think we’ll get a catch or pass interference. Don’t let them catch it, and we’ll be fine.”

Those deep balls never came.

Now here we are, awaiting another player who hasn’t yet had the chance to fail yet — keeping hope alive.

• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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