PHILADELPHIA -- The promise of what could be started in the offseason, with training videos posted of one-handed catches and workout sessions that featured his athleticism. It continued into the summer when Washington Redskins wideout Terrelle Pryor connected often in practice with quarterback Kirk Cousins.
And that led to a narrative that has yet to be played out, that Pryor would become a solid playmaker for Washington. Instead, on Monday night, the one-time quarterback was benched and played one snap in the first half. Pryor finished with a season-low 30 snaps, catching two passes for 14 yards.
Josh Doctson, playing the X receiver spot held by Pryor until Monday, finished with three catches for 39 yards. Earlier in the week, coach Jay Gruden had said -- once more -- that he’d like to get Doctson more snaps. That’s a common statement made each week, but this time it became more of a reality.
“I don’t know,” Pryor said when asked why he didn’t start. “Josh is great. He’s a talented player. We have talented receivers. I know coach Jay wanted to get Josh involved more. ... We believe in coach, believe in how he coaches us and whatever he says goes. I don’t have any questions. You’re not going to see any animosity or see me angry or whatever.”
At this time last season, Pryor was en route to a 1,007-yard season with Cleveland. Then, in the offseason, word spread that he anticipated an annual salary of more than $10 million per season -- and possibly up to $14 million. But he was not viewed this way by the rest of the NFL, and he grabbed Washington’s one-year deal worth $6 million.
When the Redskins signed him, they viewed him as a talented but raw receiver. That was a sentiment viewed by others in the NFL, most of whom did not see Pryor as a No. 1 receiver. That description hasn’t changed, and it manifests itself in the consistency of routes, among other areas. Cousins relies on precision from his receivers; it’s why he connected well with Pierre Garcon, for example.
But the Redskins also always viewed Doctson as the guy who ultimately should be their No. 1 receiver. He was the guy, in practice, who made eye-opening plays. Injuries slowed his development -- quite a bit last season and a little bit this summer.
But the bottom line is this: After having two wideouts produce 1,000-yard seasons last season, they don’t have any on pace for 600. Their strength is the tight ends (Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis) and running back (Chris Thompson). Monday, that threesome combined for 17 catches and 157 yards. Four receivers finished with 10 catches for 100 yards.
With Pryor, Gruden said after the game, they simply wanted to start Doctson. They start Jamison Crowder at the Z receiver spot and, in three-receiver sets, they used Ryan Grant -- until inserting Pryor more in the second half in different packages. The coaches like Grant a lot; he’s not as talented but consistent and more help in the run game. They don’t want to lessen Crowder’s time, either.
“We wanted to get Josh in there early,” Gruden said.
Meanwhile, in the first two quarters, Pryor was reduced to an unfamiliar role. He was asked about blunting the Eagles’ first-half momentum; Pryor answered by using the word “sideline” three times. His point: not much he could do.
“I was on the sideline just cheering my teammates on,” he said, “trying to be the best teammate I could be on the sideline and get guys pumped up, whatever I could do on the sideline.”
There’s still 10 games to be played, but at this point, it would be difficult to see a big improvement with Pryor in the passing game. Before spring workouts began, he spent time in Florida with Cousins and some of the other receivers. They both talked about how his quarterback days would help, giving him a sense of what Cousins wanted on a play. Instead, Pryor’s season has been plagued with inconsistencies, be it missed passes on some routes, drops on others. Gruden focused on wanting to get Doctson more time, but if Pryor was heading in the direction he wanted, then he’d have played more than one snap in the first half. He's caught 18 passes for 223 yards this season.
“It’s a work in progress,” Cousins said. “I don’t want to write a narrative until we have a full sample size of the season. There’s a lot of football left. There’s no reason he can’t have a very strong 10 games and really finish strong this season.”
Pryor clung to that fact as well. He has no choice.
“It’s just the chemistry of the offense,” he said. “It’s a spread-the-ball-around offense. Like I said, it’s early. There are a lot of guys around the league starting fresh with new quarterbacks that isn’t killing the game, either. We have 10 games left. We’ll see what happens.”