ASHBURN — There are at least two ways to interpret Josh Doctson’s limited playing time last week against the Atlanta Falcons. The Redskins wide receiver received just 10 snaps in a preseason game when most of the starting offense was on the field for 31 plays.
The first: Doctson’s spot on the roster is solidified, so there was no need to risk damage to a player with a lengthy injury history. The second: Washington was less than thrilled with the 2016 first-round pick’s preseason and is examining other options — like moving on.
Two divergent conclusions, and they got even more curious Tuesday when Jay Gruden refused to say definitively whether Doctson will be on the 53-man roster when the Redskins take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1. Doctson, the coach said, most likely won’t play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens.
Gruden was asked about Doctson’s status after reports emerged the Redskins were looking to trade the 26-year-old.
“It means he probably won’t play this week,” Gruden said. “I anticipate — we’ll see what happens. I’m not going to say anybody’s making it or not making it right now. We still have another game to play and evaluations to make.”
The Athletic, citing a source, reported the Redskins have “lost faith” in Doctson and would prefer a trade than outright releasing him. Trade rumors involving Doctson have persisted in recent weeks, with NBC Sports Washington reporting the Redskins tried to trade Doctson in the past.
After three underwhelming seasons, the Redskins failed to pick up Doctson’s fifth-year option in the offseason — allowing him to become a free agent at the end of the year. In 2018, Doctson caught just 44 catches for 532 yards and two touchdowns.
Asked about the trade rumors Tuesday, Doctson, who carries a $3.1 million cap hit in 2019, declined to comment.
The Redskins have decisions to make when they finalize their 53-man roster this weekend. Under Gruden, Washington has typically carried six receivers — and the team figures to have a difficult time narrowing down to that number this year.
Third-rounder Terry McLaurin and sixth-rounder Kelvin Harmon figure to be locks, as do Paul Richardson and Trey Quinn. That puts Doctson, Robert Davis, Cam Sims and perhaps Jehu Chesson in consideration for the final two spots.
One reason why Doctson might not play this week could be because the Redskins don’t want to potentially hurt a player they’re trying to trade. Starters tend to not play in the final preseason game, though Gruden has yet to say whether Doctson will start if he makes the roster.
Throughout the preseason and training camp, the Redskins have mixed and matched their receivers with the starting offense. That includes Doctson, who started the second and third preseason games. In Week 2 of the preseason, Doctson received 15 snaps — the same as quarterback Case Keenum.
At his locker Tuesday, Richardson stood up for his teammate. Pointed out Doctson played only 10 snaps, Richardson noted he played less than that, rhetorically asking if that meant he was in trouble of making the roster.
Of course, there is a major difference between the two. Richardson is working his way back from shoulder surgery and had been dealing with a quad injury in lead up to the Falcons game. It made sense for the Redskins to be extra cautious.
But Richardson insisted Doctson can be a playmaker in this offense, as long as he gets the opportunity.
“I feel like he had a great camp,” said Richardson, who took nine snaps in Atlanta. “He keeps jumping over people, keeps making plays, making catches. … We play a position that is opportunity driven. We don’t get as many opportunities, you don’t get to make as many plays.
“From what I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Richardson said later, “he’s a (heck) of a player, man.”
Perhaps the Redskins hope another team agrees.