Last year, Redskins Nation witnessed the emergence Jamison Crowder as he reeled in seven touchdowns and gained over 800 yards on 67 receptions. Coming into the new season, Jay Gruden could have up to ten new starters, which creates the perfect storm for multiple breakout performers.
In order to build upon their mediocre 8-7-1 performance and obtain a playoff berth, breakout players are a necessity. The clearest position for a new star to emerge is wide receiver, where Washington’s two most prominent starters left in free agency. With 214 targets up for grabs, someone will step up, which brings me to my first breakout player: Josh Doctson.
Out of all receivers in the 2016 draft class, Josh Doctson had the most upside. He has great hands, great speed, and outstanding leaping ability. Unfortunately, Doctson was limited to just six targets due to an Achilles injury.
Recently, JP Finley stated that Doctson has looked “Quick and Healthy” during the team’s minicamps. Alongside that, he made an outstanding catch last Wednesday with a one-handed leaping grab over second-year corner Kendall Fuller.
As mentioned before, the absences of Garcon and Jackson open up a world of opportunities for the TCU alum. He’ll most likely be lining up outside opposite Terrelle Pryor, who will draw the #1 corner of most matchups.
Doctson has a blend of talent, youth, and positioning which all should combine for an outstanding season.
In Cravens’ limited action last year, I saw exactly what I love to see in a player: fast play speed, awareness of the ball, and versatility. All of these feats were accomplished at a new position for him: middle linebacker.
In the upcoming season, Cravens will be playing safety, which is his natural position. During practice, Cravens has shown an innate ability to find openings in the offensive line to bring down Cousins for multiple sacks.
Cravens has the football IQ and versatility to excel as a box safety and I expect him to do so this season.
Calling 2017 a “breakout” season may not be the correct term. In my opinion, his true breakout season was in 2015, where he truly came into his own in the NFL. Towards the beginning of last year, he struggled due to tough matchups such as Antonio Brown. During the second half of the season, he returned to his earlier form. This change was clear in his game against the Panthers in which he deflected 3 passes.
Breeland’s stronger second half directly correlated with a change in the team’s defensive mindset. After a tumultuous start to the season in which Breeland and Norman both stayed on their respective sides rather than Norman shadowing a specific receiver. Joe Barry made the decision to allow Norman to follow #1 receivers to either side and subsequently Breeland’s play elevated significantly.
Washington’s new defensive coordinator Gary Manusky stated last week that Norman would shadow this year, allowing Breeland to draw more favorable matchups every game.