With Pryor and Doctson, Redskins hope bigger is better at WR
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By STEPHEN WHYNO
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Kirk Cousins knew he recognized the guy at the Cleveland rest stop last summer who was trying to blend in with the crowd.
Even with his hood up, Terrelle Pryor sticks out.
"I was surprised at how big he was then, too, in the line at Starbucks," Cousins said.
Pryor exemplifies the Washington Redskins' bigger-is-better changes at wide receiver. The 6-foot-4 converted quarterback, 6-2 Josh Doctson and 6-3 free agent addition Brian Quick will be counted on to give Cousins tall targets that can replace the production of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.
"They know us big bodies - we go and get the ball and go attack it," Quick said. "Some (defensive backs) are smaller, so they expect us to use our size all the time. That's (what they mean) when they say, `You can't teach height.' You just go and attack the ball."
Jackson at 5-10 and Garcon at 6-0 combined for 2,046 yards last year, and Jamison Crowder - expected to be the shortest receiver in the NFC East this season at 5-9 - led Washington with seven touchdown catches. But the Redskins' offense will feature a much different dynamic with Pryor , Doctson and Quick.
For one, it should help the Redskins in the red zone after scoring touchdowns on just 45.9 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line, ranking 29th among 32 NFL teams.
"I do like to have bigger receivers in the red zone here and there to be able to throw some fades, too," coach Jay Gruden said. "What the heck, I love the fade. ... There's a lot of room for error when you have a guy who's 6-foot-5. You can throw the back-shoulder fade, you can throw it over the top, they can go up and get seam balls."
Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said the coaching staff spent a lot of time this offseason studying other teams' red zone concepts with the goal of improving in that area. It's not just about bringing in bigger receivers to pair with tight end Jordan Reed, but that doesn't hurt, and Cavanaugh concedes the Redskins "have more size on the perimeter."
What they have less of now is pure speed with Jackson gone to Tampa Bay, though Pryor could turn into a deep threat because of his ability to get separation from defenders. Because he was a quarterback at Ohio State and early in his pro career, Pryor consciously thinks about trying to prevent interceptions.
That should help Cousins, along with the natural advantage of giving him a bigger window in which to throw the ball.
"Height is an advantage if you can use it to your advantage," Cousins said. "You've got to be able to put the ball in the right spot where your guy can catch it, and he's got to be able to adjust to the football and make those tough catches at a high point."
In addition to Pryor, Doctson and Quick, receivers coach Ike Hilliard loves the potential of 24-year-old Maurice Harris, who's 6-3 and has "found a way to catch every ball that's thrown in his general area." Doctson, the Redskins' first-round pick in 2016, has similarly looked good early in training camp after missing most of his rookie year with Achilles tendon injuries .
"We're going to count on Josh to play a significant role in our offense," Hilliard said.
Pryor said Doctson is one of the best athletes he has seen at the position and complimented his "knack for the ball." But he and Gruden also praised Crowder, who is smaller than the redwood-sized receivers around him but gets the job done just the same.
Maybe that's why the ex-Ohio State quarterback doesn't put as much emphasis on height as others.
"I don't think it matters how tall a guy is," Pryor said. "It really has to do with your heart and how bad you want the ball at the end of the day. Antonio Brown's about 5-10, 5-9 and he plays like he's 6-7. It doesn't matter how big you are. It's how big your heart is and how bad you want that ball."
NOTES: Gruden said RB Keith Marshall will have surgery Tuesday to repair a torn patella tendon in his right knee. ... To replace Marshall, who was waived with an injury designation, the team signed former LSU RB Kenny Hilliard.
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Updated July 31, 2017