SNIDER: There's no double-talking over Washington's receiver youth

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It's not often anyone speaks the unvarnished truth anymore. Not our leaders, not even our friends. But Washington receivers coach Jim Hostler played no mind games on Thursday when asked about his unit. The group is so young that Hostler told reporters via Zoom that he has no idea what to expect, while hoping for the best. "Well, we are young. The experience. We don't have a lot of experience. From that standpoint it is hard to tell what we are lacking," Hostler said. "We aren't quite sure because we haven't been down the road yet just like with any young player. They are all going to get better. How much they get better and how they fit into the offense? They are all down the road in front of us. "They are all talented players. We have some speed. We have some bigger body guys with some length. We have a couple of guys that fit into the way we play. There is some diversity there. Hopefully over the next couple weeks we can narrow it down to how we are going to be doing this."

Hostler's admissions aren't startling. The group mostly has one year or less in the pros. Even top receiver Terry McLaurin has played just 14 games. Losing Kelvin Harmon for the season with a torn ACL makes it even more confusing as to what this unit can accomplish. Add no receiving tight end plus a young quarterback and the passing game is a real mystery.
But there is plenty of opportunity for rookies like rookies Antonio Gandy-Golden and hybrid running back Antonio Gibson to contribute. Likewise for second-year receiver Steven Sims and third-year veteran Trey Quinn to emerge in slot.

"We have a lot of young guys that really haven't played a lot so everyone has a shot," Hostler said.

It starts with McLaurin and still the mystery will be a potential sophomore slump. McLaurin gained 125 yards and a touchdown on five catches in the 2019 opener versus Philadelphia. He caught five more and a touchdown the next week against Dallas and six catches and a score versus Chicago. Defenses suddenly adjusted to the only real threat Washington offered, but he was still consistent through the season with 58 catches for 919 yards and seven scores.

"Not a lot of people had expectations of what he was going to be," Hostler said. "Teams that they played didn't know him or weren't really concerned about him. That is something to do with your early years.

"Once you have success in this league, it is about expectations, managing expectations. It is going to be about now being the No. 1 guy coming into the season, you're going to get more attention. You just sort of catch balls as you go through the year. His growth from year one to year two will be all about the expectations and managing them."

Offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense will be remindful of his father Norv Turner's when the latter was the team's head coach from 1994-2000. Bang away with the run, throw the ball past first-down markers. No dinking and dunking, but setting up opponents for the big play. Look for a chance to beat teams for real yards. That's why Washington drafted Gandy-Golden and Gibson.

"We like to throw the ball down the field," Hostler said. "The bigger you are, the farther down the field you are, the more of a target you are to throw the ball to. Bigger players have had success in this system down the field. Big targets, you can throw the ball up and they can go get it."

But Hostler concedes the early going may be tough in sorting out receivers. It may be well into October before Washington discovers its playmakers.

"We're going to have to find ways to continue to improve while winning games to give ourselves a chance," he said. "Again, the longer and farther we go down the road, the better off we will be. It is going to be a little bit of a challenge early in the season."

Ain't that the truth.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks